Tag Archives: drug overdoses

John parked in AI: ADDICTION – NOT A CHOICE

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Text and photos by John Bean

If you’ve glanced at a paper recently, turned on a radio, or channel surfed at all then you’re probably already aware that we’re in the heat of an opioid overdose epidemic. More specifically, opioid overdose-death epidemic. In Massachusetts alone we are losing at least four residents per day to this – that’s 56 people since the last issue of In City Times just two weeks ago. When you add to it the number of ODs that were able to be revived or simply lucked out, the numbers are even more staggering.

But this isn’t just about numbers this is about real people with real families, real jobs, careers, friends and futures – its about all of us. By definition, this is a Public Heath Crisis.

Public health and the general well-being of our community was always a priority for one Worcester resident, Tim Houston. Weather collecting and preparing food to give to those in need of it here in our city or by providing live background music in support of those doing like-minded works, he was always close to the front and often first to volunteer in addressing any public need, even while he was still just a young teen coming into his own. However, addiction knows no boundaries, isn’t concerned with social standing, or personalities, and no-one is immune. After a relatively brief period of experimentation, followed by a prolonged and difficult struggle with dependency, Tim succumbed to his disease last August. He was 23 years old.

Tim’s mother, Anne told me, “Around the time he was finishing up high school there was a proliferation of pain pills in every kids medicine cabinet they could dip into for fun”. She saw first hand that after his first use, “it was no longer a choice for him”. After a period of abstinence and staying away from the kids he was hanging with, a prescription for his wisdom teeth extraction brought him right back in. By then the availability of prescription drugs had dried up due to new, perhaps overdue prescribing regulations and the shutting down of the so called “pillmills” in Florida. And he, like so many others, found himself turning to the street where heroine is cheaper and readily available to anyone. Only on the street there is no way to know what you are getting from one dose to the next.

It’s well established within the medical community that addiction, (to drugs or alcohol, etc), is a disease, not a choice – at least not at first. The risk for one to become addicted increases with the number of immediate ancestors that are addicted. This is true weather you’ve witnessed their behavior or not. Its genetic. However, people without the genetic history are not necessarily off the hook. In fact anyone can become addicted simply by using or abusing any mood altering substance over a prolonged period of time. This is especially true with certain “feel-good” drugs, such as opiates.

Once addicted it takes a lot more than mere determination to get and stay clean. One major reason for this is how severely sick one can become during withdrawal. This ‘dope-sickness’ has been compared to, “your worst flu ever, times ten, and for twice as long, then you’re drained and left depressed.”

It hits you from both sides: intensely euphoric on one end and deathly sick on the other. It should not be surprising for us to see someone caught up in this seemingly never-ending cycle.
Even so, while so many die from heroine overdose, one cannot die from heroine withdrawal.

That’s not to say that the one going through it wouldn’t welcome death at that moment. Going it alone Cold-Turkey, is a traumatic enough experience that it must be considered thoughtfully as a crucial part of anyone’s recovery process.

Medically there are several options to assist in the physical withdrawal. Perhaps most commonly known is Methadone, a pharmaceutical opiate primarily used as a long-term maintenance tool for chronic addicts where the patient is required to follow fairly strict regulations, submit to random toxicology-screens, and show up to a clinic, usually daily, to receive their dose.

Suboxone, a semi-synthetic opiate relatively new to the US market, (2002), is used in a similar way but is said to have less undesirable effects than Methadone and be less subject to abuse. It is also being studied for its off-label potential as an anti-depressant – depression being a common underlying factor keeping many addicts from long term recovery, and for many the very thing that lead them to drugs in the first place.

Some have even become desperate enough to try a controversial drug therapy treatment said to provide a, “rapid detox without the side-effects”. In the early ’60s a long term heroine user, Howard Lotsof, realized, quite by accident, that several days after taking this halluginegen from West Africa that he was, “not dope-sick and hadn’t even thought of using since last week”. This Ibogaine has been studied on and off for its medicinal uses, most recently at the University of Florida. It is still illegal in the states and one must travel, at considerable expense, to Mexico, Canada, or any of several European countries to find this treatment in a controlled enviroment.

However, there is no magic pill for any of this. The whole person needs to be treated. Of Suboxone, Annie Parkinson, Central and Western Mass Coordinator for MOAR, (Massachusetts Organization for
Addiction Recovery), and former director of a local Suboxone program says, “It’s more than a pill – it’s a program.”

Throughout the community various support groups and programs can be found. From Narcotics Anonymous, made up of addicts in recovery passing on the message to others seeking sobriety to more formally run peer support groups such as Everyday Miracles, operated by Spectrum Health Systems, who additionally offers a variety of treatment options including detox facilities and outpatient clinics.
Everyday Miracles Peer Coordinator, Michael Earielo says, “We’re peer driven/staff run. We are unique in that we accept all pathways to recovery.”. All addictions and schools of thought are welcome to visit the center at 25 Pleasant St, dowtown Worcester.

In classic Worcester tradition the crisis is being met squarely from the bottom up, by diehard and dedicated individuals, non-profits, grassroots groups, and of course addicts who have found recovery.

And in tragic Worcester tradition, City Hall is rushing to catch up. The city has received a grant from the Substance Abuse Services of Mass Department of Public Health. I was unable todetermine from the Board of Health web site how the grant is being used.

Go, Ronny, go!!!!!

MAIN SOUTH: The PIP is gone, but the crime remains the same

By Ron O’Clair

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Hit and run …

Early Wednesday morning the 7th of October as I was still at my post watching the nefarious goings on in my area of concern here on Main Street in the 700 block, I heard a terrific crash right outside my window.

I was able to look out in time to see the same Dodge Ram pick up that had been terrorizing the neighborhood all night long previously running up and down Main Street at a high rate of speed making U-turns and coming back to interact with the street denizens who habituate my area.

I had almost called in a complaint on the truck for that behavior earlier, but the response times from the Worcester Police Department often are such that I figured they would be gone by the time the police arrived.

The guy in the black truck had been burning rubber during those U-turns which tended to be at Main & Hermon, and Main & Sycamore.

Several times during the course of the night, the offending vehicle would park outside of my building on the Charlton Street side and make transactions with the street dealers that perpetuate this particular spot in our beautiful City of Worcester.

I have tried to get the WPD to investigate the street level dealings that take place all night long outside my windows that are readily apparent to anyone that cares to look, but so far have not had much success.

Apparently, hanging around all night long outside of residential and commercial property that is clearly posted with No Trespass with no legitimate purpose is allowed in this section of the City of Worcester. At times there are as many as 20 people congregating outside of this building. You can travel the length of Main Street and not find that anywhere but here at ground zero at 2, 3, 4, or 5 in the morning.

It is the same people, doing the same things, day after day, night after night, and nothing is being done in the way of rectifying an intolerable situation, outside of my own objections, actions, and vigilance. I am ready to throw in the towel and give it up as a lost cause.

I thank the 580 Worcester voters outside of myself who cast a ballot in my favor in the preliminary election for City Councilor At-Large, I am grateful that there are still some people who can see the truth of the situation that exists here in the 700 block of Main Street.  

Once in a while, someone is caught in the act of criminal behavior and actually has to face the consequences.

It just so happens that the driver of the black Dodge Ram truck was caught this morning. The woman whose car was destroyed may be able to get compensated for the damages, none of which would have happened had I not been witness and willing to do what is required of a citizen when he or she witnesses a crime.

It is your civic duty to assist the police in maintaining order in your community. Many people fail to do that duty for various reasons, and the result is that the police are hamstrung by lenient laws designed to protect the innocent from false charges which many times allow the criminals to continue their crimes without consequence.

So, after striking the vehicle, the guy revved the engine and pushed the car ahead a full car length, before finally backing up and fleeing the scene, only going as far as Wellington Street where he quickly parked the vehicle. This gave me ample opportunity to witness the incident, and telephone the police.

While waiting for the police to arrive, the woman who owned the damaged vehicle came out of 718 Main Street with a friend, saw me in the window and asked if I had seen who did it.

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I pointed out the black truck now parked on Wellington Street, at which point the passenger that was riding in the vehicle at the time of the crash saw me doing my duty as a citizen.

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There was some panic at that point among the perpetrators, and I believe an attempt was made by them to forestall summoning the police because the passenger whistled after the two women who were now heading back to the building I assume to  summon the police.

The driver, with his shaven head plainly visible had exited the vehicle and was staggering all over the place on Wellington Street in what I surmise was a drug/alcohol induced state of intoxication. 
It bordered on the bizarre, this whole scene, but really it was just another day in the hood. When the police finally got here, the operator was inside the drivers seat clapping his hands. The two women were taking cell phone pictures of the license plate of the truck which I had already reported to the call taker for the Worcester Police Department having read it with my telephoto lens as it sat parked on Wellington Street.

The black Dodge Ram got towed away by the police, which probably means that it was unregistered and that the plate did not belong to it which will no doubt cause problems for the woman who had her vehicle damaged. The operator was taken away in the Paddy Wagon, and the damaged car remained parked outside my building for several hours.
I am quite certain that had I not done my duty, the occupants of the black Dodge Ram had no intention of owning up to the fact that they had caused the damage to the woman’s vehicle.

Certainly I am not winning any friends among the criminal element by my taking the moral high road and doing the right thing in these situations, but my faith in the system demands that I do it. If we fail to do our part, it is only a matter of time until there would be total chaos and anarchy on the streets.

People need to do their part, the police alone can’t control the situation. If we all do what is required of us as citizens as laid out by our forefathers, we could restore out inner cities to order in no time. It is a sad state of affairs that I have to call the police to report people sitting right on my front steps smoking crack cocaine out in the open on Main Street, only to have them come too late to catch the offender in action. Same goes for my witnessing trespassers doing drugs on the private property or when vehicles come to make drug buys, by the time the police arrive to investigate the suspicious vehicle report, the transaction has taken place and the next one occurs. It is a never ending cycle of lawlessness that is not being halted.

Perhaps getting this out there in print will help change that.
I urge other concerned citizens who reside in my location to start phoning the police with complaints about the activities that go on outside their windows on a 24/7 basis. When enough complaints are made, things will start to happen.

Worcester opiate addiction task force meeting

By Ron O’Clair

I found out about the first of four scheduled Opiate Addiction Task Force meetings by checking out this – Rosalie’s – InCity Times website to see how some of the stories I have been submitting have been coming along, and to see how my pictures looked on the website. I saw that she posted a public notice of the Opiate Addiction Task Force that was held this week at Quinsigamond Community College on West Boylston Street. Seeing as how this is a subject near and dear to my heart, I made sure that I could schedule time to attend.

As many of you InCity Times readers know, I have long been an advocate of giving the down and out a helping hand up, not a hand out, which they invariably use to further their addiction rather than to do their best to get well and return themselves to normal everyday people who are grateful for what they have. Anyone in the City of Worcester can take advantage of the programs that have been designed to help people get off illegal drugs and return to mainstream society.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services was represented at this meeting by Secretary Marylou Sudders who chaired the Task Force.

She introduced the speakers, including Worcester County District Attorney Joseph P. Early Jr. who spoke briefly about the role of the District Attorney’s Office in trying to focus on rehabilitation of chronic drug users that tend to clog up the courts with repeated charges of possession and the crimes they commit to support their drug habits.

The Worcester County High Sheriff, Lew Evangelidis, spoke about the Worcester County Jail and House of Correctionand what they have been doing to curb recidivism, and also help the inmates get into treatment for their drug addictions. His administration has been doing good things there.

The Secretary introduced Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito who spoke to the audience a bit about how the newly elected Massachusetts governor, Charlie D. Baker Jr., sees this problem for what it is and recognizes the need to focus our attention on treatment and rehabilitation, rather than continually wasting resources on incarceration.

So Governor Baker has initiated these discussions throughout the state and wants to hear the stories of the loved ones of the lost, the victims of spousal and family abuse related to drug addiction, and how often violence and crime are associated with the desire to acquire illegal drugs. At the cost of the family unit.

Governor Baker has set up three additional meetings like the one held in Worcester that was supposed to run from 4 – 6 p.m.  But due to the large turnout, and the number of people wishing to share their experiences, the meeting at the college was carried over an additional hour until 7 p.m., at which point it broke up.

Everyone that had been in line was given three minutes to say what it was they thought about the crisis of addiction and then to offer any suggestions that might make a difference.

William (Billy) Breault from the Main South Alliance for Public Safety was the first to be allowed to speak, and he reminded the panel not to pass any legislation that would politically validate anti-social behavior in the process.

Drugs are playing an ever increasing role in the breakdown of our society. There was an elderly gentleman named Sam (Bloomfield I believe he said his last name was) who has authored 10 books and was there at the ripe old age of 88 to remind us that when he was a youth, we as a society did not have the problems with drugs like we do today. Sam advocates for a return to the old ways.

I must say, I have been an advocate of that myself because the way I see it, we have been chasing rainbows of a utopian existence where everyone wants to be free to do what they want, while not having to be responsible for their actions at the same time.

In my days of growing up in Worcester, I saw what I can only describe as a gradual steady decline in morals, more and more people experimenting with hard-core addictive illegal substances, more and more deaths due to opiates, etc. Of course, there are those who have come to believe that they have the right to disturb the peace all night long while engaged in illegal activities associated with the criminal conspiracy to traffic in narcotics in my neighborhood here in the 700 block of Main Street, Main South.

There were a couple of speakers who wanted to ensure that the panel does not make it harder for the chronic sufferers of pain to be allowed to have the medicine they need to deal with it. One lady complained about how already in the last five years she has been having trouble with pharmacists due to the newer and more stringent laws regarding the dispensing of certain pain medication.

These people have legitimate illnesses or injuries that cause them excruciating agony, and there does need to be some type of provision set aside for those that fall into that category.

Many of the speakers told of loved ones who had been injured and prescribed pain medicine, only to be suddenly taken off their meds, without any weaning off period, and then to have their loved ones seek out street drugs like heroin as a substitute. BECAUSE THEY ARE ADDICTED. BIOLOGICALLY.  They get addicted to that drug and end up dying in their loved ones’ arms.

It was an awesome event – everyone came together and got a chance to share life stories and learn …

I had my turn at the microphone and related the fact that due to my unconventional methods of using social media with my video series, I have been having some success getting drug-addicted people to WANT to get better. I informed the panel that Samantha S. of one of my videos has been reunited with her family after being out on the streets for two years, is back in her three year old daughter’s life, and had publicly thanked me for posting that video. She credits the video for saving her life. I was thanked via email by Sheriff Evangelidis, as he knows the girl and her family. They grew up in the same neighborhood. It felt good to hear these positive statements!

Questions or comments, anyone? Please email them to ronaldoclair@hotmail.com