Grassroots effort takes on opioid epidemic, as pharmaceutical companies push new drug as solution

At the grassroots of the American heartland grows a resistance.

"All those families together is a lot of people and their extended families. Enough is enough," says Wayne Campbell.

Enough lives lost, families broken apart and communities devastated.

"There is that thing I am probably yearning for. You wish you could bring him back but you can't so the more people that you help, it keeps you going," he said.    

It was the tragic loss of his son, Tyler, that led Wayne Campbell to join this movement. The University of Akron athlete developed an addiction to prescription opioids after a sports injury.

"Shortly after we saw subtle changes in Tyler but then we thought it was that 19, 20-year-old maturing [and] growing up," said Campbell.

Campbell started the non-profit, Tyler's Light — a drug education and prevention program mainly for middle and high school students, which he devotes much of his life to.

"Probably about 80 hours a week. This is my full-time job now," said Campbell.

And each time he is on the brink of giving up, he comes across a story of someone he's impacted that pulls him back in.

"It brings tears to your eyes and the hair stands up on your arms but again you think what if 5 or 6 years ago, 8 years ago that somebody else started this," said Campbell.

But at the same time Campbell and other families are chipping away at this nation-wide epidemic, drug makers have been proposing their own solution.

New harder-to manipulate pain pills — opioids they claim are harder to crush, snort or inject.

"There are billions of dollars involved in this, way more than we can make an impact of. So it's going to need sweeping change," said Campbell.

In his recently filed lawsuit against five drug makers, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine claims companies like Purdue Pharma “exaggerated the effectiveness of 'abuse-deterrent' opioid formulations to prevent abuse and addiction.”

"I find it just amazing that after having caused this problem to a great extent they are not out there trying to help people who are addicted," said DeWine in an interview with News 5. "That drug still has the same component parts it is still the same drug, it still is highly addictive."

However, in 2013, DeWine and several other attorneys general signed the National Association of Attorneys General’s letter urging the Food and Drug Administration to favor abuse-deterrent formulations.  Several other Ohio politicians including Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman have come out in support of creating these so-called abuse-deterrent opioids, as well.

"We encouraged them to make a drug that was harder to abuse but we didn't write a letter saying these are great drugs," said DeWine.

Campbell says the answer is not another opioid, but change from the top down.

"Every politician top three subjects to go run on, this is one of them. So why don't we do something about it?" asked Campbell.

It's was the focal point of Senator Rob Portman's re-election campaign, a campaign that featured Campbell's story.

Campbell says he agreed to be featured in the ad as a means of raising awareness.

"Another platform, another podium to bring awareness," said Campbell.

The 30-second ad aired shortly before Portman's Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was signed into law.

RELATED: Pharma company linked to Ohio senator benefits from opioid addiction and treatment

A year and a half later, Campbell, who lives in Pickerington, says the law barely scratched the surface.

"It is a drop in a bucket, once we figured out where the money was going to and it was just select areas or counties. None of it ever made it to our area," said Campbell.

And he says that while the CARA act was an attempt, more aggressive legislation is needed from political leaders.

"We know there is an epidemic, we need to hear what action steps are going to be done,” said Campbell.

Campbell says he is now looking for accountability.

"Yes. Absolutely accountability. There are a lot of families… And if you are a politician running for the same office and you've been there for a couple terms, you especially, because you've been in office during this time and nothing has been done yet," said Campbell.

Purdue Pharma says it is committed to being part of the solution to prescription drug abuse and has dedicated resources to programs focused on education, prevention, and deterrence.

In a statement to News 5, Portman said he believes "We should focus on prevention, treatment, and long-term recovery in lieu of abuse-deterrent technology."

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