Portman Hears Stories Of Heroin & Drug Addiction In Columbus

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UPDATED: Wednesday April 16, 2014 6:28 PM

Senator Rob Portman heard from experts and recovering heroin addicts during a forum on drug abuse and prevention, and it was a topic that hit very close to home for several participants.

Shannon Ballas appears to have it all together, but there's a history of sadness behind her smile.

"I'm a mother.  A daughter.  I lost everything to heroin, including my soul," said Ballas.

Ballas, 29, is now 19 months clean, but the last decade for her has included rehab, jail time, and losing custody of her now 6 year old daughter.

"Of course we use any excuse we can to keep our addiction fueled, but that was it for me," said Ballas.  "When I lost her it was 'what a bad mom.  I'm never gonna get her back.’  All those negatives like guilt, remorse and shame."

Ballas attended the meeting of the Drug Free Action Alliance, where Senator Rob Portman sounded the alarm for a growing drug problem.

"We have to get at this issue," said Portman.  We have now in Ohio probably 1,000 people a year dying of heroin overdoses alone."

Portman says a comprehensive, "all hands on deck" effort is needed to counter heroin and other drugs.  He says his letter to Attorney General Eric Holder now has 16 cosigners.

And heroin isn’t the only problem.

"I lost my brother to a prescription drug overdose in 2011," said Eric Smoot.

Smoot's 16-year-old brother Cole overdosed on a prescription drug three years ago.

Eric says many of his peers face pressure both at school and at home.

"You can yell at someone but they don’t always have to listen,” said Smoot.  “But when you tell them why it’s important to you they listen more.  At school, sure, they may not have the best experience but at home their life can be horrible.  Outside of school peer pressure is getting a lot worse.”

Ballas says a drug addict can turn their life around.

She now has visitation rights with her daughter once a week...even while her struggle continues.

"I've not kicked it, I'll be in recovery for the rest of my life," said Ballas.  "I have bad days.  Not everything is ponies and rainbows in recovery at all.  But I have to stay on my toes and stay aware."

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