It’s time for our weekly helping of Paul Curran, guest columnist from above. Canada, that is, which is definitely geographically north of my home in upstate New York. Take it away, Mr. Curran.

Paul Curran, our esteemed writer.

Paul Curran, our esteemed writer.



Welcome to the weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today and I’m happy to be here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the living room. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B, have prepared a nice, warm, comfy place for us so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is unseasonably cool with a high just over freezing at of 38 F. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer – we have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger to warm up. We can relax with a cuppa while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been? Have a sweet – electronic sweets are all calorie free!

Assorted Sweets

I was waiting for my ride to dialysis Friday in the building entrance, when a tall skinny young man dressed in torn clothing burst through the door coming in. I saw him coming and stood aside as the door banged off the wall. He noticed me immediately and became very apologetic in tone and body language – but his words were nonsensical, he spoke of “them” stealing the past and stealing the future and how he had to stop them. As he looked at me I realized that his mouth was ringed with white foam, and foam was dripping from the right corner of his mouth. He continued to mumble about “them” stealing time as he fit his key into the interior door lock and stepped inside. He seemed so sad to me, and I had never seen such a manifestation of drug abuse before. Our building has a number of fixed income welfare recipients and the younger crews have serious drug abuse issues. I feel safe here as no one has bothered me but they are definitely their own worst enemies. I wouldn’t show any sign of having any valuables as I am sure they would be stolen in short order.


Would you like another cuppa? Perhaps a sweet? Drug abuse has become a serious issue lately in Canada with the growth of fentanyl addiction. Our national paper, the Globe and Mail, did an in-depth article on Saturday at . Back a few years ago Oxycontin – a powerful pain-killer – was the prescription and street drug of choice. Because of its addictive and psychotropic properties, it was banned in Canada when it started killing people who were buying it on the street. I had a friend whose doctor prescribed oxy, and she got addicted. Her personality changed from a caring, loving person to an animal scrambling for her next fix. I could not believe the change. Then one day, I found her passed out in her kitchen, and I loaded her and her three kids into the car and admitted her to a hospital. They prescribed a drug to substitute while she worked on the addiction – and sent her on her way. She did not get any further than emergency. They made no inquiries as to her home situation or if she had dependents – just in and out. Not a social worker or case worker in sight – which was good at the moment because if Child Services had gotten wind, she would have lost her kids. I took her to the chemists and she was barely conscious – I literally leaned her across the counter while I got the prescription filled – the person has to be there themselves in Ontario for the first filling of a narcotics prescription, to show picture identification. Taking her home I carried her to the couch and made arrangements for her kids – her family and their minister and her best friend. I made arrangements for her best friend to drop by and check on her a few times a day. Then I had to go to work. She has a very strong personality and she broke the addiction, claiming she could remember very little of her time addicted, not even the trip to the hospital.

Oxycontin – officially Oxycodone HCL

Oxycontin was a nasty, nasty drug that was way over-prescribed. And now it is gone, but a drug called fentanyl has taken its place. Also a pain-killer, fentanyl is many times more powerful than morphine. It is being smuggled into Canada from China, and the profits are mind-boggling. A weight of fentanyl as large as a single crystal of salt will give a huge high. The problem is that an amount the size of two salt crystals will kill. So, it is cut carefully with sugar or talc or some other filler. Get a load of this – it can be bought on-line from China for about $12,500 per kilo (and they guarantee delivery or they reship). One kilo is enough to press out into one million pills when cut, and the pills sell for $20 each in the city and up to $80 each in rural areas. How is that for a profit margin?

Harm Reduction

Harm Reduction

A number of street-level doctors in Canada have tried to get “Harm Reduction” used as a philosophy to guide the fight against fentanyl and other drugs. These harm-reduction centers provide safe injection sites and professional oversight of substitute drugs to break addictions. They are proven to reduce deaths from addiction but they are political hot potatoes – and the citizens are up in arms against them based on the NIMBY syndrome. (Not In My Back Yard). The government has reduced or removed all funding for these harm reduction centers although many have continued on with private funding. Meanwhile the death toll from drug abuse continues to rise precipitously. Deaths from fentanyl overdose alone have gone from less than 100 in 2012 to over 400 in 2015. Doctors on northern reservations who were seeing one or two fentanyl ODs per year are now seeing more than that daily. There is an antidote for fentanyl poisoning, but it has to be administered early and many die before they can get help. Harm reduction centers would also be of great help in antidote distribution as they are usually located in the areas where drugs are being used.

The Goal

That’s about all we have room for this week folks, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week.

Refill Please!


35 thoughts on “Escape

  1. Thank you very much for the opportunity to guest post Mark. It is an honor to have a chance to present to your readers. may the coming week bring health and happiness to you, your family and readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good Morning Paul-I am up with my young one-sniffles-we are at my in-laws summer home in the Georgia Mountains and he and one of his brothers decided to skid into the pond yesterday! LOL mud galore. Oh by the way I’d love a cuppa with cream this am but no thanks to any sweets. Florida has some major issues with drug abuse and your mention of Oxy was here as well; a culprit among our young High School Students (Yes!) most especially. Today, it is heroin. It is a nationwide problem here in US as well and of concern to myself and hubs with 5 young ones to raise. My parents will often say it as marijuana in our day-love not war, peace out. They never messed with it! My young one dosed off here on the couch so I’ll go now and close my eyes and catch a few hours before breakfast time! Have a lovely day Sir. The Gatorette…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gatorette! One coffee with cream coming right up. Thanks so much for dropping by and I hope your young one is feeling better today. Oxy was a big problem – there are only 35 million Canadians and doctors were writing 19 million prescriptions a year – scary. That’s gone now but it was so popular that some fentanyl makers are passing their pills off as oxy, If you see this it can be either oxy or fentanyl masquerading as oxy.

      Thanks for the visit Gatorette. Keep a sharp eye and good communications with your kiddos and they will be fine. I went through that with my teens. Sleep tight!


    • I’m sorry Martha -it was not my intention to scare but rather inform. 🙂 In reality this new drug – fentanyl- is seldom prescribed and those who take it do so by choice. You won’t get mixed up with it accidentally as often happened with Oxycontin . I live in an very interesting area that produces some intriguing behavior – not likely found in your neighborhood. I live in an area that is set up to serve university students – there is a large university 3 blocks from my place = Ottawa U, Canada’s only bilingual university and it has 42,000 students. The kitchenettes come with internet and cable and are quite cost effective. The transitory nature of the student population, combined with the competitive pricing, attracts a number of fixed income folks like myself(who is on disability pension) and also welfare cases. The buildings are well kept with security and good locks and clean inside and out. And we are just four blocks from Rideau street and all the malls and Parliament buildings. That describes this end of the street – the far end has all renovated old mansions that hold embassies and consulates.That said there is a fair bit of alcohol and drugs that change hands locally. I see all the newest and greatest – ha!

      So, no need to be scared Martha – you’re safe where you are. 🙂


  3. Hi, Paul: What a sobering post. I’m impressed by the research you’ve done and even more by your compassion and understanding for the suffering. And, as always, I worry about you and your own situation. Are there still any plans to move?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sigh. I seem to be scaring people away with seriousness Barb. Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a comment. The plans to move to Vancouver are still on – they are getting more complex but they are still there. Thanks for the visit. I am honored.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Canada is one up on US, again. I think those damn pain pills need to be banned here in the USA as well. They are over prescribed and over manufactured. They are getting on the streets by the truck load. Why can’t anyone figure out that if they aren’t manufactured ….. so WHY are they being manufactured in such high quantities? Hmmmmm…. And no matter what drug is out lawed, a new one will crop up. And we will always have problems. It’s a horrifying mess. I see it daily because of my job. The impact that addiction has on the human being and the human condition is wicked evil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Colleen! Thanks so much for dropping by. It is a pleasure to have you visit. Addiction is a huge problem especially in a world where we seem to live in anti-depressants. i didn’t realize that the US still used Oxy. nasty stuff – insidious. It must be difficult for you to deal with the addiction that you see daily. Keep safe Colleen.


      • Thanks Paul. There is oxy, and a multitude of pills I can’t even name. But I can name you the troubles it causes in addiction, homelessness, loss of jobs, family suffering, child and elderly abuse, the list goes on. It is nasty indeed.

        I’m glad to hear Canada is wise in regards to the problem.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting. I take oxycodone but I don’t get high. I never understood the addiction. I have a prescription since September 2015. That fentanyl sounds scary. I believe China wants to take over by any means necessary. Food now drugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am assuming you are taking oxy under the watchful eye of a doctor by prescription. Some people are more addictive than others but the big issue in Canada was the amount that was making its way to the street. They were using strengths that were well above normal prescription levels. Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment silentlyheardonce. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, Paul – I am here, but I had to come looking for you after your comment on the other post! If this popped up in my Reader, I missed it.


    When I had stomach surgery a number of years back, I was given oxycontin for pain immediately after surgery. I loved that drug! I felt like I could get right up off my sick bed, pull out all the tubes and monitors, and go out dancing! Yes, it can be a very dangerous drug should one become addicted to it. Fortunately, in my case, once home from the hospital, my pharmacist refused to fill the prescription because the prescribed dosage was too high, plus the fact that I could not come in to sign for it. So I just used extra-strength Tylenol instead. Guess I dodged that bullet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi CM! Awesome to have you drop by – thank you. I feel better now. I hope your daughters get settled – new house and healed wrist.Word press notifications ave been sloppy lately – a lot of followers are getting dropped and e-mail notifications are not dependable. I don’t use the reader, so I don’t know about that – but I imagine the problems are there too. I’ve heard a number of bloggers complain about this and, in fact one blogger got a response from WordPress when she complained to them. They promise to look into it.

      Yes, it sounds like you did dodge the bullet with Oxy. You have an astute pharmacist. I’m not sure why but here in Canada many doctors were over-prescribing or giving too high a dosage. Generally narcotics are handled carefully by docs – but oxy seemed to be an exception. Perhaps they weren’t aware of the strength of its addictive or psychotropic properties – not sure. Anyway, well done and welcome back!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Beth! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment. It is terrifying, unfortunately a very real world for many. I wasn’t trying to scare though – addiction or abuse is often started by choice, an escape. But a lot of it travels under the radar – un-noticed by mainstream. Thanks for the visit – I am honored. Please come by again.


  7. So odd. I never have heard of Fentanyl. As I am constant pain, I tried Oxycodone, but it did nothing for me. No painkiller ever did anything for me. Nor did five drinks today. Just last week, the doc prescribed another painkiller and another muscle relaxer, and I took them every day twice a day for several days, and nothing. Zilch. So I just don’t understand when people get addicted bc I’ve never actually had anything help my pain. How terrible for you to see someone foaming at the mouth! And to watch a friend change personalities. These drug companies own the souls of millions of people now; they know what they are doing. They are taking our money and killing us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Kerbey! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment. Fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 50 times more potent than pure heroin. It is used here by anesthesiologists and in various very diluted applications. However, it is still one of the most addictive chemicals yet discovered – because of its potency. It is sold under a raft of names . If anything can address your pain fetanyl will if you are OK to use it and if you know it is addictive. I don’t know how it is marketed in the US – may be different or not available, I don’t know. The problem is that it is very cheap to import and deadly on the street. Which is a killer combination.

      Yes, drug companies are often in control – and rich – the trouble is that there is no replacement for what they do. What can we do?

      Thanks so much for the visit Kerbey and I hope you find some relief from your pain. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Very powerful post. Yes, oxy is so dangerous but fent seems way worse from everything I’ve read. It is really sad that the clinics that have the alternatives are being shot down. Part of it is more than likely the eat into Pharma’s ptofit pocket. Another is still the stigma of addiction. My heart goes out to that guy. Will we ever learn?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi 1J1! Indeed the cases of addiction and death are sad. So many do not wish the afflicted into their neighborhoods that it is hard to find a place to establish a harm reduction center. Even Vancouver, where they allow the public selling of marijuana – harm reduction centers are getting a lot of flack. Because of the warmer climate and the nearness of a seaport and the US border, there are a lot of addicted there . Certain areas are renowned for their drug culture – and still funding for help is hard to get. Fentanyl may turn that attitude if it starts to kill more and more. Hard way to get funding.

      I am honored that you came for a visit 1J1 – please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I had outpatient surgery in 2008. I sent my husband to the pharmacy with my pain prescription, in case I needed it. I do my best to not use the heavy duty stuff. He came back with 60 Oxycontin pills. SIXTY! I thought it was a misfill. But it wasn’t. While the incision was extremely painful — with a piece of plastic inserted in for 3 months, I only used a few of the pills. Then I was there with 55 Oxys and a teenager. It was very hard to dispose of them. I never mentioned to my son that I had them (why tempt fate?), and there were no problems. But why give a person so many pills that are so addictive?

    Glad to read that Vancouver is still on the horizon.

    And I’m sorry for your neighbor, and really for all of our neighbors who are suffering.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Elyse! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and comment. I am very careful with painkillers and like yourself, only take them when i can’t tolerate the pain. It seems amazing that they gave you so many oxy pills at once. For some reason certain drugs here are limited per fill and some are not – I’ve never been able to figure out a pattern. Teens and their friends can be devious, even when they are good kids. Curiosity. When the oxy pills are white, some teens were carving tylenol pills to look like oxys and replacing them in the bottle.

      Vancouver is still moving forward – like all complex plans there are adjustments but nothing of material nature. Seems like it will be the end of may that I travel now for June 1 arrival. The city has decided to tear up the road and we are being given alternate housing at UBC until the new place is ready.

      Thanks again for the visit Elyse. Take Care and please drop by again.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Addictions destroy and it is very hard to watch. Drugs come across both US borders – or are made locally. Then there’s the docs and pill mills that hand stuff out like crazy – make a lot of money that way – if law enforcement or the medical boards do not notice the number/frequency of prescriptions being written for a particular drug (like Oxy). There’s a lot of paperwork for docs for certain classes of drugs – and it is being scrutinized more by certification boards and law enforcement. Pill mills are raided frequently and closed; docs lose licenses – but there’s always the black market which is far too easy to access.
    Part of the problem is people seem to think life should be totally pain free and are unwilling to feel any discomfort. Docs here now are rated by systems(for “customer satisfaction” as well as efficiently solving the problem) for gov. funding – and there are FB and social media doc ranking spots which are taken waaay to seriously by hospital/medical/federal systems considering the web is anonymous – So there are prescriptions – with warnings – which are ignored and suddenly a person is an addict.
    People need to be willing to gut it up and not take any more pain killers than necessary. (Chronic pain/medical conditions are in another category – pain management is important for quality of life)
    What to do with addicts is a complex issue.
    Better to have clean monitored locations for oversight for those who are addicted but can manage a pretty normal life than to risk the shadows. Some drugs are so deadly, dangerous, and cause such personality changes that offering risk free spots to secure and take drugs may only be delaying an eventual death. Addicts do not realize what they have become – or what it is doing to others. Cops and ER staff know how super human strong someone high can be – they don’t feel pain, can’t think sensibly, and are hard hard hard to stop when being dangerous. Few manage to escape the downward spiral.
    I don’t know what the answer is , but having seen far too much of it, we need to start teaching kids very young that you don’t want to take any pills or medicine if you don’t absolutely no other choice have to. Learn other coping techniques: bio feedback, walking outdoors, art, music, diet, dancing, using you body’s own natural resources, yoga, exercise – volunteering to help those worse off than yourself – try anything and everything else first. Please teach kids life is not perfect – sometimes it hurts, but you can manage and make it through – with a little help from your friends, not pills.
    Once you ask pills to help because it’s easier, to ask them to take over, they will. Then it’s too late.
    Paul, your posts are always well worth the search.
    Cat pets! Free cat pets for Ellie! (cat petting is soothing!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Phil! Thanks so much for dropping by to visit and hedge a comment. Drugs are a continuing problem in our society. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t needed pain medication very often in life. The answers are so complex – one of the issues I suspect is driving the increase in drug consumption is a growing lack of emotional networking. Most networks are now built on line not IRL. This greatly increases the number of acquaintances but reduces the emotional communication. That in turn reduces the amount of perceived support when life is rough and individuals need support. We are hiring out that support to mental health workers and other profit centered organizations (like prostitution). Meanwhile our consumption of anti-depressants is at an all time high in the Western world and is increasing daily. i had a very unsatisfactory brush with the mental health system that i posted about in two parts starting at .

      Thanks again for dropping by Phil. When i feel poorly (nauseous or sick) I will often imagine patting a fluffy cat and it makes me feel much better. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Best plan is to co-own a cat…so it lives with the litter box in the other person’s place. HAHA
        I think you hit a lot of targets in your reply. One thing for sure, “to have friends, you have to be a friend” – not sure kids are actually taught/shown how to do that when young any more – or see parents doing it. So much meanness and ridicule – making jokes at other people’s expense. It starts very young – when kids are pre-verbal…
        Among other reasons, it’s difficult for a small child to get clear messages and see desirable behavior modeled when they are in herds with an exhausted caregiver who just wants to get to the end of the day and go home. Emotional isolation is a growing problem – along with unreal expectations of life pushed like a drug in movies, social media. You’ve seen the results in people, too.
        All you can do is trod along best you can. You may be less out and about now, but you certainly spread a lot of smiles. Not everyone can – or does. Thanks for the grins – and word spins!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Paul! Great post! I hate the scourge that the pharmaceutical companies, and the docs who have stock in them, caused by over prescribed Vicoden & Oxy in this country, as well! I have written about it a few times. Those drugs, Fentanyl included, are great for cancer patients – my FIL took them before he died from bone cancer (which is incredibly painful) – and for other situations, but the rate that they were distributed continuously for regular use to so many is criminal. AND the crap that comes out of China is nothing more than chemicals that mimic the chemistry of the real drugs, and is often poison, resulting in many deaths. I have seen a few news shows on this topic, as well – and how now that the laws in the US have changed and they have cracked down on all the over prescribing – people that were prescribed these pills on a daily basis for years, were abruptly taken off . . . and some of them turned to heroin. Such a sad situation . . . and in all honesty, greed was truly at the root of it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so very much for dropping by Sadie. I agree pain medication was greatly overprescribed. So much gets to the street. These days the Chinese are producing some good stuff. They have caught onto the fact that they have to supply quality if they want repeat customers. The Chinese government is trying to crack down on exports of narcotics but if you’ve ever been to China you will know that is easier said than done. Put 1/6 of the world’s population in one country and then squeeze the majority of those into the cities and it becomes very difficult to control. Besides it gives them good paying jobs feeding our addictions – and the Chinese like that. It’s win-win for them.

      The problem is that there are valid, humane, sensible uses for these drugs. Stopping the abuse is not as simple as outlawing them – that does bad things to those who legitimately need them. Thanks again for the visit Sadie – I wish you good luck in job hunting and good health.

      Liked by 1 person

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