Who are the opioid addicts? Open your eyes and look around you

Why is the nation’s war against opioids aimed mostly at helping people who repeatedly fail in recovery?

It sounds like a terribly stigmatizing question, and yet it’s not intended to be.

Federally funded dollars aimed at combatting the opioid epidemic are being funneled toward injection drug users, not your neighbor next door silently suffering, their life crumbling around them.

Not one addicted person deserves treatment more than the other; all need treatment. And their treatment choices as a consumer should be respected.

Beyond the severely addicted dying from heroin laced with fentanyl, what about all those millions and millions of Americans legally popping pills from an Rx?

They’re doctors, teachers, pharmacists, police officers, politicians, wives, mothers, sons, fathers.

When they can’t get their pills anymore, they turn to the street.

Then they can get help from federally funded programs.

In my town, Sheriff Gerry Bustos recently announced the launch of the Safe Passage program.

While I am a victim of heinous drug-related crimes, and indeed have taken a hardline approach view to the most brazen drug and sex crime criminals, I do think Bustos’ Safe Passage plan is a good one.

It’s what’s working in other communities, so long as it is done legitimately.

But I don’t know that mutual acquaintances of Gerry and I and others will bring in their prescription pills, “Hi! I’m going to go into your program today and quit or lose my job and be stigmatized and go hang out at Robert Young Center for 30 days so I can be given more opioids in a ‘substitution therapy’ format.”

Or will they? Perhaps they want Suboxone as much as the addicts who ended up on, or a step away from, the street — that Suboxone largely is not working for.

Suboxone doesn’t work

More on that in a moment. It is important to state up front that Suboxone may not be working because it’s not being used properly, and differently as appropriate, among varying populations.

Not everyone got into the opioid epidemic the same way. Some DID just start injecting heroin. Some got in with criminal intent. Some come from a long line of addiction within their families, and even organized crime, perhaps.

Some slipped on the ice and have been screwed in pain for 15 years now.

And they. Are. Angry!

Enter The Butterfly Protocol and some conversations I have been brought into on Twitter about the opioid epidemic.

I have been asked to be on a national panel regarding the opioid epidemic, chaired by The Butterfly Protocol.

My understanding is that it will be a rather large panel and that I will be the ONLY pro-cannabis member.

I’m salivating!

So, who and what is The Butterfly Protocol?

“TheButterflyProtocol™ was originally designed for use with the NONaddicted Rx Opioid Patient; however, it can be ADAPTED to meet the requirements for the SUD-afflicted Patient population,” wrote program director Therese LeDantec-Boswel in a Twitter message to me.

“invisABILITY™, the 501(c)(3) parent NPO behind the development of TheButterflyProtocol™ receives absolutely $0 from its participation in this effort.

“TheButterflyProtocol™ itself has $0 financial affiliation with ANY of its Adjunct Therapeutic Collaborative Partners who have been selected for integration in the Protocol”

She also made clear:

“We invited you to be a Panelist in our capacity as Chair of the 360˚ DxTx RTP Working Group that is organizing this event,”

She said The Butterfly Protocol appreciates my voice as a victim of an opioid-related crime (and I appreciate THAT).

To learn more about the assault in my basement in May 2014 (and consequently a rape I survived seven years before that) click here.

Then, a year later, my house was illegally searched and my home damaged by police. Click to learn more.

This all transpired as I was being held in the Rock Island County Jail on no charges at all. Click to learn more about that chapter of my upcoming book, due out this summer.

All while I was serving as an informant in a criminal investigation. Be careful when you take old friends turned cops to Mulkey’s while nosing on a story.

How bad is the opioid problem where I live?

 Check out this very well-done story by Tara Becker of the Quad-City Times on Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos’ Safe Passage Program.

Directly from Becker’s story:

“Heroin and opioid users can voluntarily bring in their drugs and paraphernalia to law enforcement without arrest. Law enforcement will destroy the drugs and will get users to a participating treatment or detox facility.

“However, participants who are wanted on an active warrant must deal with those charges first, he said. Those who are currently under arrest are not eligible.”

  • PLUS …

“Nineteen people – 14 men and five women – in Rock Island County have died from an opioid overdose from Jan. 1 to Dec. 20, according to data provided by Rock Island County Brian Gustafson. 

They range in age from 23 to 69. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid played a role in several of the deaths.

“It is an emergency and it is epidemic proportions, not only nationally and at the state level, but clearly at the county level,” Gustafson said.

Since 2011, the county has seen 65 fatal overdoses.”

Saving lives is great, and as I said, the Bustos plan works in other places. But here’s what I’m confused about: Who are the pre-selected volunteers? I also don’t believe Robert Young Center is suited for providing these important services.

From Becker’s excellent story:

“The program is similar to one launched in Dixon, Illinois [birthplace of President Ronald Reagan, incidentally], two years ago, but is tailored to fit Rock Island County…..

“A group of 10-12 volunteers have been identified to help get participants to the treatment facilities and the county has some funding to help facilitate that process, Bustos said. [More nepotism in Rock Island County? Quite dangerous if so on a project like this] ….

“On the treatment side, the county is partnering with the Robert Young Center, Rosecrance Adult and Rosecrance Child & Teen in Rockford, Illinois; Chestnut Health Systems in Bloomington, Illinois; and Gateway Foundation Centers in the Chicago-area.

Bustos said one of his goals behind the program is to keep opioid users out of the jail, which can create a problem for corrections and medical staff, and get them into treatment instead.”

Not your average addict

Many people suffering from pain, and who have therefore become dependent on opioid analgesics, are furious that they are being dubbed addicts when fentanyl off the street is what’s really killing people.

They’re angry because now they’re being forced to detox or seek the black market themselves as the federal government cracks down on the doctors who arguably helped create the opioid epidemic.

(From The Butterfly Protocol’s Indiegogo page. Click here to check it out for yourself. I do think what they are doing makes good sense, at least at first glance):

“100% of all prescription opioid patients to whom opioid analgesics are legitimately administered in a sustained therapy will succumb to the state of Iatrogenic Dependence [IOD]absent any history of abuse, deviation, diversion or misuse.

This is known as Iatrogenic Opioid Dependence, a state that is caused by the strict, lawful adherence to a legitimate prescription Opioid therapy, and is not related to the disease of Addiction, or an Opioid Use Disorder [OUD], both of which occur in a completely different area of the brain.

They add:

“Delivering a viable treatment option to the majority of non-addicted opioid patients [The 98%] who are contemplating the life-altering challenges associated with Opioid Cessation and the inevitability of Opioid Withdrawal is vital to achieving what should be the nation’s target objective: ZERO incidents of sustained Iatrogenic Opioid Dependence. [i.e., targetZERO™]

The associated multimedia Information & Educational Platform [IEP], deployed in advance of The Butterfly Protocol™ Project, empowers members of the medical community, the non-addictive patient and their caregivers with detailed information about effective, humane therapeutic options in the non-opioid treatment of post-acute chronic pain, serving as a national model for a turn-key Opioid Cessation Plan.”

I see the point of so many of my suffering friends past and present now. But I also see many others.

There are so many different paths to opioid addiction, there is no one size fits all solution to solving it. But those who are suffering in pain and NOT being offered help…that’s just inhumane.

I’m sure as I respectfully say this that the sheriff understands what I’m talking about. Hopefully, because if we want to fight the scourge the epidemic has made on our community we’ve got to help everybody.

That means people like myself have got to admit I can be a sh$#hole about my friends’ dependency problems just as they had been about mine in the past.

We all. Must. END THE STIGMA.

I think our meth problem is as bad as our opioid problem in the Quad-Cities, but there isn’t massive amounts of federal money for that.

Never ask me to see my story before I publish it. Never.

“I want to reassure you that this is a PRIVATE DM chatroom, with a well-known Moderator,” nurtured program director Therese LeDantec-Boswel.

in a Twitter message exchange where I laid every shocking detail of my trauma.  “If at any time you feel that your safety is challenged, please feel free to hold off on participation. This is a monthly event.”

Unfortunately, she lost a lot of credibility with me when she requested this:

We would request a right to review be extended as a courtesy prior to any publication.

It’s such a no-no. Silly Pharma does it to established reporters all the time.

So, since Pharma is the only place I generally see such modern-day arrogance toward a respected journalist, I’m turned off now.

So, I blocked them. And I don’t know whether I’m going to participate on their panel or not.

But I’m glad they opened my eyes to a whole new world of opioid addiction sufferers that is right under my nose, and yet I have been stigmatizing myself.

And blocking is just the modern-day way of taking the phone off the hook. You can always decide to call again later.

And they can always decide to block you, too. So, it’s all fair.

Until next time.

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You can find me on Twitter @DavidHeitz 

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5 thoughts on “Who are the opioid addicts? Open your eyes and look around you

  1. We respectfully asked a ‘Right-to-Review,’ not in ANY interest of stifling credible journalism, however, in the interest of ensuring that the information provided was accurate and veracious.
    You displayed an incredible effort to adhere strictly to what was communicated to you in our respectful and open exchange via twitter DM.
    If we had been provided this courtesy prior to publication, we would have had NOTHING to amend or any revisions to suggest/request.
    As usual, David, your writing style is quip, fluid and captivating.
    If we can provide you with any additional information, or support any of those whom you know to be embroiled in this challenge, we remain every ready with knowledgeSHARE and support.
    We remain your staunch supporters & remain hopeful that your AUTHENTIC voice will lend itself to an invigorating dialog with our esteemed Panelists.
    Professionally yours,
    Therese LeDantec-Boswell
    Program Director


    1. Thank you! And you said you understand what PTSD is, and it looks like you do. I have enjoyed our conversations. I will continue to watch and perhaps participate when the date comes depending on how I feel. Thank you for authenticating my voice Therese!


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