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.
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. I wrote about it in my two-year sobriety column in June that you can read by clicking here. It’s how I ended up with my PTSD diagnosis.
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.
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.