Prisoners share how opioid abuse ruined their lives

February 28, 2018 07:22 PM

Here's a startling figure. Nearly 50 percent of all federal prisoners are serving time for drug charges. Even right here in the Capital Region, about 40 percent of prisoners at the Albany County Jail are in for drug or drug-related crimes.

Many of those are the result of opioid addictions. Some of those prisoners shared their shocking stories, which serve as both lessons and warnings for us all.

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They are fathers, sons and daughters -- addicts. Getting arrested and going to jail is the best thing that could have happened to them.

"Because if I didn't have this, nothing would have stopped me, and I probably would have been dead," noted Gear Kowalchyk.

Kowalchyk, 23, Asia Saglimbeni, 25, Isaiah Lind, 22, and Raymond Morales, 49, all with different stories that brought them to the same place.

"I od'd like three times before I came here," admitted Morales.

Morales, the elder of the group, says his addiction started early -- an unfortunate family tradition.

"They were dope addicts. They were heroin users and they used to shoot up in front of me. I was like 11 years old, so I grew up knowing this," he recalled.

The others have stories that are more common.

"I was 17. I was in high school," pointed out Lind.

Teenagers at parties, drugs lifted from a parent's medicine cabinet -- passed around like candy – oxys, hydros, Xanax and heroin.

Saglimbeni remembers when she and her boyfriend first tried it.

"His cousin gave it to us. We both didn't know what it was," she recalled.

They used it every day. By the time they realized it was heroin, by the time they realized they were addicted, they had all lost control.

"They found me on my bathroom floor. I was purple," explained Saglimbeni.

"Worst experience was getting high in my own house, od'ing in front of my parents, and my mother finding me almost dead. It’s not cool, not cool at all," acknowledged Kowalchyk.

"Opiate is like the highest you can get. Once you start getting sick off it - when you need it - your body starts asking for it, that's when you start committing crimes. You’d do just about anything to get that fix," explained Morales.

"You can’t over use or over abuse these drugs, ‘cause they can ruin your life," warned Lind.

For all four of them, prison has helped stop the cycle -- at least temporarily and give them time to consider the true cost of their addictions and the others who've suffered.

"I just want to get my family back and my mom tells me she just wants her daughter back. I just want to get close with my family and do the right thing," admitted Saglimbeni.

"I have a daughter. I haven't talked to her in years, because of me going in and out of jail, rehabs and running the streets -- chasing my drug," pointed out Morales. "I'm getting kind of old. I’m almost 50 years old. I wasted a lot of time just using drugs."


Jerry Gretzinger

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