Like a doctor performing microscopic surgery, I pour the heroin into my cooker. I reach for a bottle of water, insert the syringe, and draw up about 20cc. I squirt the water into the cooker and watch it slowly move across the white powder. I flick on my lighter and move it back and forth under the cooker until the heroin bubbles.
I bite off a small piece of cotton, spit it into the middle of the burning liquid, put the plunger end of the syringe between my teeth, and pull the plunger back with my teeth until the cotton goes dry. I have 10cc. My heart races. I throw away the cooker, shake the syringe up and down, and tap the top to remove any air bubbles.
I find a good vein and insert the needle. There’s a little sting as I pull back on the plunger, and a dash of red-blue blood snakes up the middle of the clear liquid. A direct hit. Nothing left to do. Everything goes warm. I begin to nod off. I can’t feel my face. I can’t breathe. I am dying.
That was 30 years ago. First responders saved my life with Narcan. Ten years later, I climbed the Low Memorial Library stairs at Columbia University to accept the prestigious du-Pont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Journalism.
How did I beat a 10-bag-a-day heroin habit?
It wasn’t easy. Perhaps the perfect blend of persistence, commitment, education, and exercise. But It all began with Narcan. Everything I have accomplished since my last bag of heroin is a direct result of what took place on the floor of a broken down mill building in Lowell, Massachusetts when emergency responders revived me.
Now, for the sake of full disclosure, Narcan is not the magic bullet to end this the worst health crisis in our nation’s history. Rather, it is the genesis to the potentiality of hope for countless mothers and fathers who have squandered their retirement or mortgaged their future on the prayer of saving their child life.
I do not have the answer. However, I do know there is a solution if we mobilize Americans. To accomplish this, we must smash the stigma of opioid addiction. We must never allow elected officials like Sheriff Richard Jones of Butler County, Ohio to prevail.
Last week, Sheriff Jones lit up his world with cameras and journalist when he proclaimed that none of his deputies would carry Narcan. He said, “I'm not the one that decides if people live or die. They decide that when they stick that needle in their arm.”
When Mary Beth Murphy, Program Director at Megan House, a holistic opioid treatment center in Lowell, Massachusetts read about Sheriff Jones’ decision, she said, “There should never be an option to deny a life-saving drug to any individual. Would you deny insulin to a diabetic because they ate too much cake?”
Ten minutes into researching a man that on the surface appeared so callous with human life, it all made sense. Sheriff Jones had a history of stomping on our Constitution and was charged with violating the constitutional rights of a local immigrant. Butler County, Ohio was forced to pay 100, 000 dollars to the undocumented worker, Luis Rodriguez.
Mr. Rodriguez was hanging drywall at a construction site when Sheriff Jones arrested him and deported him along with his wife and two children. They had lived in Southern Ohio for eleven years working, paying taxes, and attending a local Christian Church. Until the settlement, they had been living in poverty in Mexico.
Sheriff Jones forgot that due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every “person” and are not limited to citizens. The framers of the Bill of Rights understood that when the government has the power to deny rights and due process to one person, everyone’s rights are at risk.
But in this case, the reckless logic of one man does not threaten immigrants. Sheriff Jones is playing Russian Roulette with his deputies.
Chief Deputy Anthony E. Dwyer - Major G. Michael Craft - Corrections Captain Dennis Adams - Captain Lance Bunnell - Captain Matthew D. Franke - Captain John A. Sons - Lieutenant Rick Bucheit - Lieutenant Morgan Dallman - Lieutenant Nick Fisher - Lieutenant Randy Lambert - Lieutenant Todd Langmeyer - Lieutenant Jeff Riegert - Lieutenant Carrie L. Schultheiss - Corrections Lieutenant Scott Brown - Corrections Lieutenant Rob Clendenin - Corrections Lieutenant David Reynolds
The names above are not just a list of the “good ole’ boys” Command Staff at the Butler County Sheriff’s Office with one female deputy to avert a discrimination lawsuit. These deputies are decent human beings that Sheriff Richard Jones has placed in extreme peril with his bravado unquenchable addiction for media attention.
Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than opioids. It doesn’t come from the Mexican Cartels. It comes from a lab in the basement of any home in America. From Maine to California, a high school drop-out chemist can download the ingredients on the internet and make a million dollars off a couple of bricks.
Ohio now tops the nation in opioid overdoses. Sheriff Jones must be aware that in his home state, fentanyl-related overdose deaths more than doubled from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015, illustrating how the powerful drug is escalating the crisis.
Sheriff Jones must recall the night in May, when a police officer in East Liverpool, Ohio, helped with a drug bust and brushed fentanyl powder off his uniform. The officer, Chris Green, started to feel his body shutting down, was given Narcan and taken to the hospital, where he fully recovered.
Later that month, a sheriff's deputy and two emergency medical technicians were treated for accidental overdoses in Harford County, Maryland. In fact, new DEA recommendations state that all first responders should always have Narcan on hand.
Sheriff Jones, it is never too late to do the right thing. I appeal to your love for America. Please toss aside the John-Wayne-poppycock. This isn’t about being a Democrat or a Republican; it isn’t about a wall, or about playing God and deciding if a person dies. It’s about respecting human life.
The choice is simple. Three hundred seconds and Narcan carried by all you deputies could make the difference between your deputies taking their son to a ballgame on a warm summer evening, walking their daughter down the aisle of a church or you meeting their extended family at their wake and funeral.
Sheriff Richard Jones, Please Do Your Job.
Ritchie Farrell is the author of I am a Heroin Addict.
Follow Ritchie Farrell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ritchiefarrell1
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.