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.
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!
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 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/a-killer-high-how-canada-got-addicted-tofentanyl/article29570025/ . 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 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?
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.
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.