Being from Louisiana, this article struck home with me. Also, my experience with small town residents addicted to painkillers paints this picture for me. I so disagree with this small town reporter. I want to warn all these small towns like Breaux Bridge, Louisiana...that this problem will not "blow over."
According to Louisiana narcotics agents, until very recently, the availability of heroin was limited almost exclusively to New Orleans and Shreveport. Two months ago, a Breux Bridge couple was arrested with liquid methadone, and police began to realize that heroin is no longer limited to New Orleans and Shreveport. Later, a quantity of heroin was also discovered in Breux Bridge, and police were convinced this problem had crossed their county's borders. KLFY.com gives a special series report, where Chuck Huebner investigates heroin in the heart of Acadiana.
Huebner tell us, since the 1970's the penalty in Louisiana for selling heroin was 99 years in prison. Some officials believe that this was a deterrent for some dealers, and it helped restrict the drug to the larger cities, like Shreveport and New Orleans. Although, I would strongly disagree with that, as a recovering heroin addict, I think the dealer is not usually worried about the sentence he could be charged with, as he was more concerned about the money to make. In 2006, criminal penalties for dealing heroin were reduced. Some lawmakers, and even the reporter in this video, believe that these reduced penalties are what has allowed heroin to permeate into these smaller Louisiana towns. Again, I think the influx into the small towns has nothing to do with the change in law, but is, in turn, a result of the prescription opiate epidemic around our country.
Prescription opiate addiction often starts in these small towns. At one time, Oxycontin was known as "hillbilly heroin." Many people in these smaller, rural towns across the country work in a hard labor job. These people build things, and fix things, and till the land of the Earth. And these jobs are physically strenuous, and accidents can often happen. Furthermore, many of the hard labor positions do not pay top dollar, and these people cannot afford to quit working because of pain or injury. Many of these hardworking Americans from a small town do not have the proper insurance coverage to get shoulder surgery. Even if they could afford to support their family while they took the time off to recuperate fro surgery, many insurances do not even cover it. Painkillers have been the option for so many of these rural Americans. Their doctors prescribed them things like Oxycontin, so they could bear with the pain and keep supporting their families with back-breaking labor. And the addiction has grown out of control. But, it often started in these small towns.
So, why would one not think that heroin would eventually make its way there? Since the Oxycontin onslaught in these small towns, such as Breux Bridge, Louisiana, which is highlighted in this video, the addiction to opiates has been brewing. In recent years, the restrictions on these painkillers have tightened, and their availability becomes more and more scare. As we learn more about the ravished from this addiction, our lawmakers try to change the laws, with law enforcement cracking down on prescription painkillers across the country.
But, I ask myself, what is the answer? It is these people from these small towns that are really affected by this. It is these hard-working Americans from small towns all over that are supporting their families with their back-breaking labor, and they are doing it on painkillers.
When I was living in Savannah, GA, I was on a methadone program there. In that part of the country, there are not a lot of methadone clinics available. I had moved there from New Orleans, a city that has a number of methadone clinics available to chose from. In Savannah, this clinic was the only one available for miles. There were people who drove to this clinic more than an hour each way, day after day. So many of these people were from the smaller towns, all throughout South Carolina and Northern Georgia.
As a heroin addict, I was a minority. Most of the patient's were there for painkiller abuse. Most of the patients were older, and the majority of them had hard, sun-worn faces, almost kissed by nature, but the sadness behind their tired eyes revealed it all. Most of these people worked hard, many hours of the day, for most of their lives…but they still found themselves living in a trailer. There were even family members that attended together, a slew of brothers and sisters who had all gotten hooked on Oxy's after several faming accidents. Many of the people I met did not have insurance, save mere Medicaid for their kids, unless, of course, they were on some sort of disability. Most of these patients were also chronic pain patients, trying to deal with this addiction that began raging out of control.
Those are the small town users. The big city users are the ones that may wear a business suit, or work in a strip club to support their habit, or even resulting to panhandling and living on the streets. Drug use is very different in a small town, such as Breux Bridge, or any other small town across our nation.
It makes sense that heroin would find its way to these rural places. It is not a matter of law, as the man in this video believes. It is a simple matter of economics. Heroin is cheaper than prescription pills, especially as the government has put so many clamps in place to try and cut off the supply of these prescription opiates. But, they fail to cut off the addiction. These pill crack-downs fail to anything about the addiction that is already raging. Heroin is cheaper, and heroin will end that desperate pain of withdrawal. And back to the matter of economics, supply and demand. You have the dope dealers, like the ones these police believe only inhabited New Orleans and Shreveport several years ago, and they want to make money. They have cheap heroin for sale, and these people in the country are cut short on their supply of prescription pills. The addiction is already raging, the withdrawal is awful, and the equation is already set up. The need is in the small town, and the dealer wants to make that money. Simple economics, supply and demand. No matter of law enforcement can change that addiction of need, and it also seldom intermigles with the addiction to greed. So, the equation is set up, and the answer is…heroin, moving into these small cities.
The second report discusses how the heroin's purity allows it to be snorted, thus still attracting the needle-shy customer. I also agree that this creates that bridge for the painkiller-addicted, small town person to cross. Again, economics…heroin is cheaper.
Then they reporter says, "With a little luck, this whole heroin problem will blow over…" He compares this to other drug problems in neighboring cities "blowing over." But, again, I must argue this fact. Because i think it is unlikely that this heroin addiction will likely "blow over." I can speak from experience, in that it is just not that easy. It is not a problem that simply blows over, especially in the smaller, more rural towns that battle both chronic pain and opiate abuse. To think that this problem could simply "blow over," will only delay these addict's the opportunity to get proper treatment. And it also sounds like quite a load of denial.
This, of course, leads me to the argument of the criminalization of addiction. Incarcerating these addicts, and then simply dumping them back out on the streets is not the answer either. The addictions go untreated, and some of these small town chronic pain patients…the pain still persists. The penal system often creates the revolving door of addiction and crime, not giving these addict's the tools they need to manage their addicts and become healthy and productive members of society. And these issues will begin to permeate these small towns, as the problem of heroin sneaks in. Yet, many small towns throw their arms up about opening a methadone clinic, or a sober-living facility in their quaint little town. So, the heroin still creeps in. Everywhere. Smalls towns are not immune to this.
Treatment options are often limited to those in a lower economic bracket, as those often are in a small town, or more rural area. Not to mention that nearby treatment options are also very limited, and small towns often protest them getting anywhere near. Yet, the drug problem rages right next door. Also, in a small town, the availability of 12-Step meetings, or other support groups is very limited. The power of the Internet and groups like In The Rooms, provide opportunities for these small town residents seeking meetings. But, word is sometimes spread more slowly to places without 5 bars of Internet access that I always experience in a major city.
Small towns face many obstacles in fighting addiction. And I often see these reports of small towns, reeling in devastation from drugs like heroin or methamphetamine. These small towns exist with a level of denial, that this could not be happening in their small town. That level of denial prohibits treatment and prolongs the disease. The numbers and equations are all already there. The "algebra of need," as William S. Burroughs once coined the desire, craving, and sheer physical need of heroin, or any opiate for that matter, is already in place. The economic fundamental of supply and demand is also set, and the need and the greed will meet in the middle where both parties will think they are satisfied. But, this epidemic will grow and grow, as long as the ignorance and denial exist. This is not a problem that will "blow over," and small towns and rural areas are not immune. And law enforcement will not make much of a dent in the problem of addiction…its roots go much, much deeper than that.
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