At Overdose Awareness Walk, angry moms want justice, competent care

Bridge OD

It’s one thing to make my living writing about addiction and recovery, with most of my stories these days being about our nation’s raging opioid crisis.

But it’s another to go out and meet the loved ones of those who have lost the battle – moms and dads who’ve buried sons or daughters, sons and daughters who’ve buried moms and dads.

But that’s just what I did Saturday when I participated in the 3rd Annual Overdose Awareness Walk sponsored by Quad-Cities Harm Reduction. You can see pictures and videos from the event by checking out their Facebook page.

You can’t rehabilitate people who are dead. That message was driven home repeatedly in speeches given after the walk, which took a meaningful route in and of itself.

The walk began at Davenport’s Lafayette Park, which has been known for being a hub of drug activity. The surrounding housing for years has harbored drug dealers, although one such complex recently was demolished and new housing is sprouting in its place.

The walk made its way from Lafayette Park across the Centennial Bridge and into Illinois, ending at the stunning Schwiebert Riverfront Park in Rock Island.

I had not walked across that bridge since my own days of drinking and drugging.

Heroin overdoses up 300 percent nationwide

Saturday’s event focused on opioid overdoses and Naloxone, which can bring somebody OD’ing on heroin or painkillers back from the brink. Quad-Cities Harm Reduction raises money so they can pass out free Naloxone kits to the loved ones of people prone to overdose.

Read more: Prince story demonstrates the stigma of opioid addiction, but will it help change it?

In my decades long battle with alcoholism and addiction, opioids never were my thing. They often were offered to me at the tavern, and during times when I suffered from gout or sciatica pain (both of which have pretty much disappeared since getting sober almost two and a half years ago) only then would I agree to take them. Otherwise, they just tore my stomach up too much.

I did have an introduction to heroin (at least I presume that’s what it was) – once. But not by choice (a phenomenon that has repeated itself in my community at least one other time that I know of in recent years). I was assaulted, injected, and lived to tell about it.

You can read about everything I have been through right here. I have a PTSD diagnosis and live in fear for my life every day.

For many people, a small taste of opioids is all it takes for them to become addicted, so physically addicted that they become ill and can even die when they stop using. Many people who become addicted to opioids do not fit the societal definition of an addict – they were prescribed painkillers for a surgery or injury and simply became hooked.

Read more: Almost everyone who overdoses on painkillers continues to get refills from a doctor

Others just fell into the wrong crowd, or met the wrong person.

Angry moms want justice for their babies

I chatted with several people during the walk. There are some angry moms out there. They want justice for their babies.

Several spoke of federal prosecutions of the “bad guys’ who supplied heroin to their dead loved ones. While the local news has been abundant with such reports, with some dealers even being convicted of homicide in overdose situations, obviously it’s an even bigger story than what the local news media is reporting.

Scott County has the highest overdose rate in all of Iowa, organizers said.

Walkers said Quad-City law enforcement is doing an excellent job of getting the drugs off the streets. Whether the justice system will do its part is another question altogether (and a bit controversial).

One woman told me her daughter could not get the treatment she needed for opiate withdrawal at a local hospital. She said they told her “We don’t do that.” Instead, they gave her Librium, the woman said. Librium generally is given to alcoholics, and she said her daughter didn’t even drink.

Many others said when they tried to seek help for their loved ones, it just wasn’t available.

It’s clear from speaking to the walkers that the Quad-Cities community in particular is poorly equipped for this crisis and has a long way to go. Accolades to Quad-Cities Harm Reduction for raising awareness of the problem and doing its part to save lives, and to Quad-Cities law enforcement for getting the garbage off the streets.

Read More: Study illuminates ways opioids are being misused, falling into the wrong hands


3 thoughts on “At Overdose Awareness Walk, angry moms want justice, competent care

  1. Hi David. As the President of QC Harm Reduction, I wanted to take the time to thank you for attending our 3rd Annual Overdose Awareness Walk. After reading your article I so wished that you had interviewed mothers who were not angry at dealers, or who do not demanded the arrest and prosecution of folks who use or sell drugs. You see, I am one of those mothers. When my son Andy died from an accidental heroin overdose May 25th, 2011, my life forever changed. Death is final. There are no do overs, no second chances. One of my babies, that grew in my belly, under my heart was gone.

    Andy struggled for years with a heroin dependency. In fact, when he died, his two little boys lived with me. dealing with his drug use was brutal and heartbreaking for our family. Multiple treatment stays, multiple relapses. He lied, manipulated and resorted to petty theft to afford the drug that made him feel normal. He overdosed three times. The third overdose killed him. he was not alone when he died, but was left to die. Most likely out of fear of arrest.

    As I walked through the fog and grief of my son’s death I reached out to Andy; his ghost, his spirit, his essence. I needed answers. Who sold him the heroin that took his life? Why would the other person in the house not call for help? Why was my son dead when it could have been prevented with just one phone call? I began educating myself on substance use disorders. Believe it or not, RN’s are not educated much on drug dependency. Most likely due to societal stigma. What I learned is that folks with a substance use disorder suffer from a brain disorder or disease. They are not morally flawed nor, did they simply make poor choices. Believe me, no one would choose to suffer as my son did.

    Active drug users often provide or sell heroin to each other. On any given day my son and his friends helped each other out in this way. They were not drug dealers or traffickers. Hell, the drug traffickers that law enforcement elusively pursue are no where near these drug users, they have to much to Iose. By and large, the folks that have filled our “for profit” prisons out of “revenge” or “anger” are simple the low hanging fruit. Low level, non violent drug users. Andy would not want his mother to take his friends away from their friends and family and put them in prison.

    The War on Drugs is a War on People. It was founded on racism and discrimination. That’s a fact that you can research easily. I would like to see it ended, as it is a miserable failure. Substance Use Disorders should be moved to pubIic health and away from arrest and incarceration. I believe in Harm Reduction Principles. Meeting active drug users where they are, keeping them safe and encouraging positive change. We need naloxone in everyone’s pocket. Clean syringe exchanges to control the spread of HIV/HepC infections. Realistic, truthful drug education for our kids. No more “just say no” mantra they learn from the DARE programs in school. Safe injection sites keep drug users safe and alive until they decide to change. Science has shown suboxone and methadone repIacement therapy has a near 70% success rate as compared to 20% or less for 12 step abstinence based programs. Harm Reduction principIes work. I am not angry. I am sad and alway will be. I grow old without my son and his boys grow up without a father. Again, thank you for attending our walk and for all you do.

    Kim Brown President QC Harm Reduction


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