Prescription For Progress: Where do we go from here?

May 07, 2018 05:29 PM

Romanticizing criminal behavior plays out over and over again on the screen, stage and in literature. But in real life it can have deadly consequences.

“Hanging on the corner, that crap is played out. That's not where it's at anymore,” said recovering addict Christopher Evans.


Take him at his word. At 55, Evans lived it. He was just 14 years old when he got involved with drugs on corners in Brooklyn with his brothers. He's been a user and a dealer.

"Drugs are not drugs because they're treated," he said.

Cut with fentanyl nowadays, heroin is so much more deadly than in his youth. Now in recovery, Evans is training to be a counselor. No longer peddling drugs, he wants to save lives. He's done his time and now he's, in effect, partnering with law enforcement.

"This isn't a law enforcement problem," said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. "This isn't our problem. We're going continue to fight it because we're moms and dads and parents and brothers and sisters as well. But this is a community problem."

The results of a new Times Union/Siena College Research institute poll of some 1,400 New Yorkers, including folks in the Capital Region, supports that. Most agree the current opioid crisis is more insidious than previous public health crises.

Most agree that we should make Naloxone or Narcan, the medication used to block the effects of opioids, readily and freely available to law enforcement and medical professionals.

And most agree addiction to opioids is a disease and should be treated as a disease just like cancer or heart failure.

"The access to treatment, that door should be wide open," Apple said. "It shouldn't be a little crack. That door should be wide open and it's not."

Again, survey respondents agree. Most approve enlarging emergency room facilities to accommodate treatment for addiction to opioids. Most are for expanding drug rehab programs in correctional facilities.

Been there, done that at the Albany County Jail with the SHARP unit. It provides rehab for addicts, even though Apple says there's no outside funding.

"We find a way in our own budget to make it work," Apple said. "I've got two clerks right now that are going to the Addictions Care Center of Albany to become certified alcohol and substance abuse counselors."

The survey says the public believes pharmaceutical companies must be held legally and financially responsible for the current opioid crisis. And we should strengthen the prescription monitoring service to prevent consumers from doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions.

While all these are concrete steps for our community to take we have to remember treatment isn't one and done. And it's not just the user. We have to include those dealing the drugs.

"Treatment's for both, the dealers [and] users," Evans said. "Because even the dealer who doesn't touch the drug, he still had addictive behavior." 

"I look at it as a huge jigsaw puzzle," Apple said.

More on the survey:

Statewide Crosstabs       

Capital District Crosstabs


WNYT Staff

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