2:30 AM

Voices carry in the dark

Sounds that seem urgent

may only be the mirth of youth

A man and a woman

another contentious exchange

until words find clarity

Call 911!

Then weeping, anguish

Her sobbing ends the night

In ten minutes the sirens wail

and cease amid flashing lights

The city’s wall of silence

subsumes her sorrow

And the sun will rise to shine

with Paul Simon’s Paraphenalia

When it’s all done and the police come

and they lay you down for dead

just remember what I said

 

Another Saturday Night

Another Saturday night massacre over. The final rounds were spent in the dark, into Sunday morning.  In that quiet interlude, between the night and the yawning light of a Sunday morning, sleep prevails. These hours are inhabited by the deep REM dream sleep, a surreal realm where Biafra’s mythical Frankenchrist sprinkles anthrax powder upon the pillowcases of the elites; a vain attempt to seed justice where none will grow.

Needles land in littered gravel lots, in the shadow of dumpsters, to collect amid bottle caps and grease spills. Like spent shell casings falling in slow motion in some action film firefight. Some are lost within the tangle of urine soaked sheets on a hotel bed. Sad, lonely places populated with voucher recipients, the chief driver of the local gas station economy. Some are left neatly arranged upon a nightstand in quiet suburban homes. All the same: all empty, like the shell casing a remnant of their once lethal content. These are the remains from the heavy ordnance. There are also the spent remains of lesser caliber in the form of emptied or spilled pharmacy bottles. These don’t leave the big, gaping holes, but a higher rate of fire. Spray and pray.

Sunday morning and we are awakened by the chorus of sirens. As the survivors stir from their dens they discover the lifeless remains filling the space once occupied by their junk buddy. Or their boyfriend. Or mom. We’ve come so far as a society that we now have parent/child hypodermic relays.

Sidney, Ohio. A small, rural community off of I-75 just north of Dayton. Thirty years ago MADD was on the march, the greatest scourge of the county was the drunk driver. Today? Eileen Watts, age 48, recovered at the local Days Inn at 8:22 AM with an apparent drug overdose. Still breathing, unresponsive, rushed to County Hospital where she was pronounced DOA at 8:37 AM. Her son Danny, aged 22, made the call. They had kitted up together, sharing the same needle just a little over five hours before.

How does this happen? In Sidney, Ohio? A tragic tale.  Thirty years ago Eileen had been a promising young star of track and field, an 18 year old kid bound for college and the vaguely promising future that this path portends.  College was, as for many of her peers, not for Eileen. Thankfully she figured that out before she got in too deep. Eileen wanted to do something, but she didn’t have a plan.  So she stayed in Sidney and just let life happen. Just like millions of others.

Marriage to a guy from a local family with at least average prospects, followed a few short years later by motherhood, Eileen had settled for the life not unlike her mother’s. Not unlike the way things had been done in Sidney for nearly 150 years. Without a specific plan of her own Eileen spent a life going along with or acting at the suggestion of others. She committed that fatal error of so many. Coasting through life in safe spaces one never meets their demons. Safe spaces are filled with enablers who vanish at the first sight of anyone’s demons.

Sidney, Ohio today is similar to countless other rural, Midwest towns. It is inhabited by a largely graying population.  In recent years it has been noted by some of it’s younger citizens that there seemed to be a marked increase of sirens blaring on weekend mornings. The assumption was quite often that another “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment had occurred at one of the numerous senior care facilities in town. This would, on it’s face seem to be a reasonable presumption. It is thankfully, while at the same time sadly, an incorrect conclusion. County EMS logs tell the true tale: over half of the EMS calls Friday nights through Monday mornings are in response to drug overdoses. Stocks for the manufacturer of Narcan are soaring.

When Eileen’s life began to go off of the rails her demons began to emerge from hiding. In 2009 the factory where her husband worked closed it’s doors with little warning. They had a little savings, but not enough to sustain a prolonged interruption of income. With two old and beat up cars in sore need of maintenance, gasoline at $4 per gallon and their removal from a population center with prospects for gainful employment, they had entered the realm from which our demons emerge. Desperation is alcohol on steroids, for no other poison clouds one’s judgement so completely.

Her husband by necessity had to take a lower paying job in Troy. Not across the world, but a commute of 20 miles at least, consuming $100 of an already depleted family budget just to getting to and from work. They managed, economizing where ever they could. Eileen took on a part time job waiting tables at the local Bob Evans. They were just keeping afloat. The drive to Troy wasn’t horrible in the spring or summer, even the fall was tolerable. It was in winter this and more came to an end.

The landscape on the prevailing north-south roads between Sidney and Troy are nearly barren in the winter months. The region is prone to ice storms, falling in the boundary where most winter weather systems turn from rain to a full blown snowstorm. It was on one of these roads that Eileen’s husband met his end on an early morning in February, 2010. Black ice underneath a drift blown across a lonely county road. They found him after daylight, unmistakably dead on impact with a utility pole.

From that one point in her life the rest all began to unravel. Husband and father lost, the primary income, the car and…. Part of their economizing had included letting their car insurance lapse. Eileen found herself being sued by the local power company for the damages and cost of restoration from the accident. From here things snowballed on Eileen until a few years later they had sold the house, gaining little but at least escaping the mortgage. She and Danny moved home to her mother’s house, she was able work up to a store manager at Dollar General. By 2014 it began to look like their lives would stabilize and they would again take up housekeeping on their own. This was not to be.

Eileen suffered a serious back injury at work when a deranged customer had picked her up and thrown her into a refrigeration case. This was all covered under workers compensation and Eileen did receive some supplemental insurance benefits from her employer, but extensive surgery and rehab were required. This, of course, included only the best pain killers that the modern Pharma giants can provide. Prior to this Eileen was a holiday beer drinker and nothing more. She had never been any part of the “drug culture”. A few cans of Budweiser had never tickled the button to release her own personal demon. Vicodin, on the other hand, was the handsome stranger that enticed her damsel to stray from the plantation.

As long as Eileen had remained compliant with physician’s instructions and all of the proper documentation was in place, the medical community and the insurance monopolies that feed it were only too happy to also feed Eileen’s demon. Once all of the protocols have been observed and exhausted Eileen is given a stamp of approval and sent on her way. Once treatment is completed you get to leave with an emesis tray, some slippers and whatever Jones they’ve handed you in the process. 

There is only so much one can do on the black market, out in the dark dirt of Ohio’s western counties, to get hands on those precious white tablets. A trip to Columbus is too far, but the slums of Dayton beckon less than 50 miles away. Here one can set up their meet by text over burner phones and within an hour drive up to a nondescript corner where for $80 a nice young black man will hand you a foil wrapper with enough heroin to get you through the first half of your weekend. No scrips, no insurance, no problem. 

And so, here today, we say “Goodnight Eileen”

Ford Wenty report end, 2 September 2018

420

 

Aren’t we looking at the wrong epidemic?

I have in recent years written upon the issue of the opioid/heroin epidemic on more than one occasion. Although it remains a topic of discussion in our public forum I must note, admittedly with some degree of cynicism, that the intensity has diminished substantially since the last election season. The problem is still there and the discussion continues. A lot of discussion, though perhaps not heard as much. Now, in a new election season, it is a voice that is drowned in the entire manic Trump obsession which consumes this bi-annual contest.

Those who may have only given a cursory read of thoughts I have shared on this subject will recoil at any suggestions I offer; their judgement tainted by having been reflexed by some “trigger” word.  I readily admit that my thoughts on the subject are regarded as unorthodox, but I have not tempered these in response. Not in any way. In fact my thinking upon the entire question has moved yet further afield from the herd.

Context is important. Proper perspective is vital to proper understanding. So let’s begin this discussion yet again by applying some of this. We are a nation of some 320 million people, give or take. Who the hell really knows for sure? It’s a nice round figure to work with.

There are a variety of sources that one may consult, but as an example I will cite the National Institute on Drug Abuse figure revised in March of this year, from the NIH, at an estimated 2.6 million addicts. This figure is derived from a combined total of those designated as opioid or heroin addicts. The study makes a point to mention that these two categories are not mutually exclusive. Any way you cut this there will be no “exact” figure. The best we can arrive at is a reasonably informed estimate. Using these figures then, we can say that this represents a total of just under 1% of the population.

It is in no way at all my intention to put that number up as a means of diminishing the concern. The degree of concern in this matter is tied more to it’s lethality than to it’s numbers. The number becomes important in establishing perspective. The process of seeking out the numbers provides an astounding perspective all it’s own.

I won’t say never, but I can confidently say that it is highly unlikely that you will ever see anything I publish with a hyperlink inserted to some other source, article or study. Any silly sod can do that; it’s not what I do, I am a writer. Still, I am no different than others in that I utilize those resources which are available to me.  I opened up two separate Google queries, each worded the same:  What is the estimated number of __________ in the US. In one blank I entered alcoholics, in the other opioid/heroin addicts. The results say something, I think, though I am still working out exactly what that is.

Depending upon whose studies are consulted, there appears to be a range of estimation in determining alcoholics from 12.7 up to 26.9% of the population. For purpose of discussion let’s stipulate to a rough median of the two and set this at 20%. One in five. The substance abuse issue that effects 20% of the population yields a query result of  104 million in seven tenths of a second. The substance abuse issue that effects 1% of the population yields a query result of 108 million in six tenths of a second. At first glance these figures would appear to be out of proportion. If I have any mathematics/statistical wonks in this audience please, I welcome your analysis of these numbers and any significance they may hold.  Perhaps its obvious and I’m just missing it. One thing which one may certainly conclude from these numbers is that there is indeed a good bit being discussed and written upon the topic. It’s not all talk. In some quarters there are things actually being done about it, the efficacy of which remains to be proven.

I do not know the methods, models or protocols observed in each of these widely varied studies. I’ve not gone that far into the weeds, and frankly someone else can waste their time doing that. I don’t require an exact figure on any of this to affirm what I can easily observe on my own. A number of these studies must include, at least in some part, a “survey” model. The problem with any survey model, of course, resides with it’s subject matter. As an example: take a survey of 100 adult women and ask them to reveal how often they masturbate. Or a hundred men, either way don’t expect that the results received are 100% honest! For any survey model in these uncomfortable categories there has to be a certain modifier introduced in an attempt to account for dishonesty. Without getting right down to some certified result in any of these studies I think that most reasonable people will agree that it is very probable that the estimations offered for either category are inherently understated.

Though the total numbers may vary, the wide disparity (at least twenty-fold) between the two abuse issues as a percentage of the population may tell us a great deal about why we aren’t doing a better job addressing the problem. As I continue to work through my own ultimate conclusion regarding the disparity of the aforementioned search figures, I am beginning to suspect that this demonstrates the following. We are spending a great deal of time studying, discussing  and expending energies toward the opioid/heroin issue, while conversely we may as well be spending entirely too little time and energy in addressing the issue of alcoholism. I also hold some healthy suspicions as to why this may be true.

Let’s speak of this strictly in the terms of the abuse aspect for a moment. In this respect there is but one principal difference between opioid/heroin abuse and alcohol abuse and it is this: one is an event, the other a process. Each are the instrument of the task which completes the act. The act belongs not to alcohol or heroin: it belongs to the user. This is a logic that is uncomfortable for some to admit. It is the same logic which tells me that guns do not kill people. People kill people. People own the act, the gun is but one of a multitude of instruments. Just as I am no proponent for the banning of guns, I am neither a proponent for the banning of drugs.

Prohibitions do not work. We tried that, it didn’t work out so well, but… Did we learn anything? The prohibition of alcohol did little to stem it’s consumption, just as the prohibition of marijuana has done little to stem it’s consumption either. The continued demand for alcohol under prohibition criminalized the enterprise, thus enriching criminals as is almost ever the case the nanosecond that government gets involved in anything.

Now we are at the silver anniversary of the repeal of prohibition and there is still a criminal enterprise in alcohol under state regime. From brewery/distillery to wholesaler, retailer, tavern owner, carryout owner, all the way down to the individual consumer. Just think of how many times the greedy, mindless bean counters in federal, state and local governments dip their filthy hands into that pool! While the prohibition failed to accomplish what it set out for, if we are to use the measure as applied in considering the opioid epidemic, then what we have done since is a stellar failure.

You see alcohol is different. It’s a state sanctioned slow poison. The lethality of it’s abuse is only realized over a prolonged period, over which taxing authorities may profit rather handsomely. Just as with tobacco products. The same bastards that count the silver lecture us about the evils of these poisons, poisons that are only available through the state sanctioned outlets of their own creation. Poisons that they do nothing to produce, process, package, ship, or distribute and yet they stand there shameless with their hands out for their cut of the action every step of the way. They fund propaganda ads condemning “big tobacco”, parading young, hip looking urban types who counsel their peers “they don’t care about us”. Yeah. Hey Chico? How much ya pay for that pack of smokes? 10$ ? Really….You do know the tobacco company gets less than a dollar of that money?  There’s your truth dot hashtag what-the-fuck-ever.

So here’s your real skinny kids. You’re not gonna like this. I might even make you mad enough that you’ll say “Well! I won’t read any more of his shit!” Nevertheless, at some distant point you will recall this and say “shit! that guy was right!” If 20% of the population are going to get a pass on the abuse of a substance that has proven demonstrably harmful to families, children, our highways and streets, work attendance and performance, and on and on then…. Well, what do you really think they are going to do, beyond lip service, about the opioid epidemic? And are any of you naive enough to still believe that law enforcement is going to solve this? Ha! Sniff some more glue!

You can abuse alcohol every night. You can do it entirely legally, within the comfort of your own home. That is, in fact, the recommended venue. As long as you show up for work the next day, on time and reasonably presentable, and not drunk at the time….Well, then your golden. Never mind that you are a half blind, dehydrated, sleep deprived, irritable fucking asshole from the minute you walk in until the time you leave. You pass the drug test, don’t have to go make an appointment at Lab-Whore to go pee in the cup. We’re cool. We’re the drunk club. Oh yeah, its definitely a thing.

The state is fine with this. They’re making money. Don’t make the mistake of believing anything they say. Pay attention to what they do. You see those 1% junkies? The truth is (and yes its an ugly one) they are as good as dead. They represent a net loss, anyway you cut it. The optics may be bad, but hell, let’s be real. 1% is still, uh… 1%. And, as a no doubt unintended benefit, this justifies more laws, more cops, more prosecutors, MO MO-NAY.

When your objective is to build a state of clients, not citizens, this is all a can’t lose proposition for the state. And provided you know which teat to tug on you too can profit!