Macedonia — On any given day, police say from one to four of the Macedonia City Jail’s inmates are going through opiate withdrawal.
They come from all over, as the 15-bed facility serves Northfield Village, Sagamore Hills, Boston Heights, Hudson, Munroe Falls, Silver Lake, Stow and Tallmadge.
And with Macedonia being a crossroad, inmates can also be found from nearly every surrounding community at one time or other, from Portage County to Cleveland and Akron, Medina and everywhere in between.
“A lot of times they’re stealing,” said Police Chief Jon Golden. “They’re stealing to feed their habit.”
In Macedonia, opitate addicts are often arrested after being caught shoplifting at local retailers. They also end up in jail after traffic stops, when police find drugs following minor traffic infractions or equipment violations.
They’ve also been found unconscious in their cars at area gas stations, motels and parks — sometimes with young children. Occasionally, they’re arrested for prostitution.
Often, they don’t have the $500 — 10 percent of a $5,000 bond — the judge may set in their video arraignment, according to Leah Coffman, the jail’s corrections officer.
Those who don’t make bail may stay locked up for a week until their hearings.
“On booking, my approach is to be unassuming,” Coffman said, explaining she asks new prisoners if they are on drugs and will be experiencing withdrawal symptoms. “I try to gather information so I know what I’m dealing with.
She says many are intoxicated when they arrive.
“Most of the time, they will just fess up — they’ll just tell me ‘yes.’ Generally, within 12 to 24 hours is when the symptoms start to get physical,” she said.
Coffman said withdrawal symptoms include stomach pains and nausea, and “pain throughout their whole body.”
“Most of them will just sleep and sweat it out,” she said, adding she can offer them over-the-counter pain relievers to help. The jail also has a physician on call who can administer more powerful medication. Sometimes, an inmate has to be transported the Cleveland Clinic’s Urgent Care facility for more serious symptoms.
“Sometimes they will cry and moan and complain until a squad is sent to take them for treatment,” she said.
And some are return visitors.
“Most of them are still using,” she said.
Coffman said the transformation many inmates go through as they withdraw is “amazing.”
“When they come in, they’re usually rude and disrespectful,” she said. “If they stay for maybe a week, they become a person, a whole different person, who could be my kid. The drug affects their appearance. They’re just regular people, but the drug is just tearing them up.”
Det. Ken Turley said the department and other area agencies are doing their best to combat drug sales in the community, but added the problem is so prevalent that it has been a losing battle.
He said interviews with addicts over the years show many began with prescription drugs often given by their doctors following injuries. They went on to easily available heroin and other opiates such as morphine and fentanyl.
“It’s not just an inner city problem — it’s every class in society and every race,” he said
And Turley said those suffering from opiate addiction are stuck in a never-ending cycle that many find is impossible to break without rehabilitation assistance.
“These people who are addicted, they can’t help themselves. It’s what drives them to do whatever they have to do to get that next dose of heroin” he said. “They’re out there committing crimes. If you can’t get them the help they need, they’ll probably be out there committing more crimes.
“I’ve been a police officer since 1982, and I’ve never seen it this bad,” Turley said.
While jail is a place where many addicts get a chance to get clean of drugs for a short period of time, police say many go right back to using when they are released and end up back in trouble.
Golden said family members have to realize that anyone can be affected by opiate addiction and warned parents and other loved ones they can’t continue to ignore the symptoms.
“We don’t see a lot of break-ins, but we do see thefts. There are signs that family members can see that they close their eyes to and hope it’s not what it seems,” Golden said. “Thieves don’t just steal a watch, or a set of earrings — they take the whole jewelry box. If stuff is constantly coming up missing in your house, you’ve got a drug problem.”
Golden said Macedonia Police have a policy of prosecuting whenever charges are justified.
“We get them charged and get them in the system,” he said. “The only way these people stop is if they die, or if they get in a [rehabilitation] program.”
Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433