pizap.com14982410065413May 30th: ‘If You’ve Never Shot Drugs, You Ain’t Got a Clue

By Jonathan Michaels

(Sadly, between the time of his interview and the issue’s print deadline, Steve passed away. Scalawag is grateful for the time and insight he shared with us, giving freely of himself and speaking honestly about the challenges that the South faces when it comes to combating widespread drug addiction. But Steve was optimistic about the progress that he and others were making, both in terms of saving lives in North Carolina neighborhoods and changing minds in the state legislature. He had even planned to volunteer at Winston-Salem’s first legal syringe exchange once he was well enough to leave the hospital. As fellow harm reduction activist, Erika Mishoe, put it to Jonathan Michels, “I can’t help but think he finally let his physical body go because harm reduction has finally made progress in this area.” Thank you, Steve.)

[I got the name “Gator”] from school. When you’re young and you do stupid stuff, that’s what I did. They said, “You’re tough like a gator.” It just stuck with me over the years.

I’m 67 years old. I shot drugs and did all that stupid stuff we did back in the day. This all started when I was up in college in Richmond. I didn’t last long up there and moved back home. Then I went to UNCG [the University of North Carolina at Greensboro] and stayed there for a little while. But that didn’t last long. I started making these trips to the State Department of Corrections. That was for awhile.

It never dawned on me that drugs were the problem. I went into drug treatment 14 times before it clicked that I might need to stop shooting drugs. The last time I went, I just put all of my efforts into stopping. I stopped on June 4, 1996. I just celebrated 20 years of no drugs or alcohol.

My life really took a change for the better. I watched all my friends die from some form of virus…Hepatitis…HIV…and I’m still around here.

I’ve had HIV for 32 years. Never been sick a day in my life from HIV complications. But I’ve had a series of cancers; I had pancreatic cancer first, then I had throat cancer. These cancers have really taken a toll on me. Throat cancer came from smoking cigarettes and from smoking crack.

I’ve dealt with a lot of shame and guilt over the years, especially dealing with my first wife. I infected her and she died from HIV complications. That bothered me until I got clean. And it still bothers me. All she ever did was take care of me and the children while I ran around on the street doing what dope fiends and drug addicts do: try and find ways to get more dope.

Once I got drug-free, it was my responsibility to help the people who were still out there on the street struggling with the same things I was dealing with.

There was no needle exchange or nothing like that around. Hell, no. Wasn’t anyone doing that, man. No.

I got involved because nobody else was doing it. There was a lot of drug use still going on. There was this lady named Thelma Wright who basically started the Wright Focus Group. She had the resources. I had the expertise, the knowledge. It was more than just giving out syringes.

This is a dangerous undertaking. You have to go to where the people are. I had to go into dope houses to bring stuff to people who needed it the most. Because they couldn’t go to me, I had to go to them.

I started working at Piedmont Health Services and Sickle Cell Agency in Greensboro. I started walking the streets of Greensboro, drawing blood on-site because the health department wouldn’t come do that. When the health department stopped, I picked it up.

It’s harder shooting dope than it is drawing blood. Drawing blood is easier because the equipment does the work. That was simple for me.

A lot of people told me I was crazy for going back into the community. It was time for me to give something back to the community that I had took so much from.

I really believe that that’s why my life was spared: to help the people who couldn’t help themselves. You have no idea what it takes to come up with money everyday to shoot dope. It takes a lot of stealing. A lot of stuff to continue this process because you are physically sick. It’s a feeling that I wouldn’t wish on somebody I didn’t even like. Even if I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t wish that on your life. It’s an awful feeling.

You gotta realize where you’re at. This is the South. They kinda slow. For people down here to warm up to the idea [of a syringe program for drug users]…it takes time. I know the mindset of some of these people.

A lot of people think that when you give out syringes, what you’re doing is helping people to continue to use drugs. I’m going to tell you what changed their mindset: money.

We started addressing how much it takes to treat a person with HIV for one year versus what it takes giving out one of these kits for a year. That’s how we addressed the issue and then they started warming up to the idea. When you start talking about money, these rednecks…they get real crazy. So they started listening then. When it costs $20,000 to treat a person with HIV for a year compared to $1,500 to give out one of these supplies and syringes for a year…you see what I’m saying?(1)

Something else: the face of HIV and injection drug use has changed. No longer are Black people the only ones shooting drugs. Young, White females. It hurts me to see so many young people strung out on opiates. They start out with pills that they get from their mother’s and father’s medicine cabinet. When that supply runs out, they end up coming to the spot where they sell heroin. They buy heroin because the opiates or the pills they were taking had dried up and run out. It just hurts me to my heart to see so many young people.

White people. Go to any methadone clinic, go to the treatment centers.

People look out for their own. Now that Black people aren’t the face of the HIV epidemic, well as far as opiate addiction is concerned. When you hear all this rhetoric about opiate addiction, it’s on the news everyday somewhere, because it’s devastating the community, it is.

When we were the ones that were overdosing because of opiate addiction, it didn’t matter. It’s just like all these police shooting these Black people. We didn’t matter then. We didn’t matter when we were the ones being devastated by the opiate addiction. But now that things have changed, that has not stopped my commitment to help the people in the community.

In fact, I give out more equipment to White people than I do Black people. For every one Black person, I see four White people addicted to opiates.(2)

[It] was not helping me to continue to be angry about something that I couldn’t change. I’m 67 years old. The stuff I have seen, the injustices I have witnessed over the years, it would do nothing but continue to…it wasn’t helping my situation none. It didn’t add to anything I was trying to do. Me being angry wasn’t going to help.

If you have never shot drugs… if you have never experienced what it takes to go through all the stuff you have to go through to shoot drugs everyday, you ain’t got a clue. The academic part of learning the do’s and don’ts when you’re doing street outreach is one thing. If you haven’t witnessed what it takes to be addicted, you could leave home in the morning and not make it home at night. I have practical application. I know when to pack up and when to step off. I’ve been with people who didn’t have the practical knowledge of being an injection drug user get themselves into trouble, running their mouths and saying something that was inappropriate.

Once a week I used to go out with people from the health department in Winston-Salem. Some of the people that I would go out with said the most outrageous stuff. The people they were talking to put them in check and had to straighten them out because they said something inappropriate.

Something they had read in a book that they thought was the right thing to say but it wasn’t.

I hope none of them get killed or get hurt because they’ve never been trained in what it takes to be a good outreach worker. This is not an easy job to do. It’s dangerous. Are you going to have the right people in these positions to help the community? I doubt it, but I hope so.

  1. According to the North Carolina Harm Reduction syringe exchange fact sheet: “The lifetime cost of treating an HIV-positive person is estimated to be between $385,200 and $618,900, while Hepatitis C costs $100,000-$500,000 to treat.”
  2. Of the 246 North Carolinians who died from heroin overdose in 2014, 218 were White and 24 were Black, according to data collected by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics.

May 23rd: Trump calls murderous despot to congratulate him on killing drug users

By Jeremy Scahill, Alex Emmons and Ryan Grimm

IN A PHONE CALL from the White House late last month, U.S. President Donald Trump heaped praise on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, one of the world’s most murderous heads of state, for doing what Trump called an “unbelievable job” in his war on drugs. Trump offered an unqualified endorsement of Duterte’s bloody extermination campaign against suspected drug dealers and users, which has included open calls for extrajudicial murders and promises of pardons and immunity for the killers.

“You are a good man,” Trump told Duterte, according to an official transcript of the April 29 call produced by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and obtained by The Intercept. “Keep up the good work,” Trump told Duterte. “You are doing an amazing job.”

Trump began the call by telling Duterte, “You don’t sleep much, you’re just like me,” before quickly pivoting to the strongman’s drug war.

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte at the beginning of their call, according to the document. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

“Thank you Mr. President,” replied Duterte. “This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”

The transcript, which contains numerous typographical errors, was authenticated by well-placed sources in the Palace and the Department of Foreign Affairs by reporters at the Manila-based news outlet Rappler, which collaborated with The Intercept on this story.

Since Duterte took office in June, Philippine national police and vigilante death squads have embarked on a campaign to slaughter drug users as well as drug dealers. “Hitler massacred three million Jews [sic], now, there’s three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said in September. Last month, he told a group of jobless Filipinos that they should “kill all the drug addicts.” Police have killed over 7,000 people, devastated poor areas of Manila and other cities, and used the drug war as a pretext to murder government officials and community leaders.

The new details of Trump’s call with Duterte come on the heels of the Philippine president’s announcement that he is imposing martial law on the autonomous island of Mindanao, where government forces are battling Islamist rebels. “If I had to kill thousands of people just to keep Philippines a thousand times safer, I will not have doubts doing it,” Duterte said.

On the April 29 call, Trump pointed out to Duterte that his predecessor in the White House had been critical of the rising body count under Duterte’s reign in the Philippines, but that Trump himself gets it. “I understand that, and fully understand that, and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that,” Trump said, “but I understand that and we have spoken about this before.”

When the Obama administration offered some tempered criticism of Duterte’s killing spree, Duterte called the U.S. president the “son of a whore” and an “idiot” who “can go to hell.” Speaking in Beijing in October, Duterte said, “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow. And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

However, in the wake of Trump’s election, Duterte said, “I don’t want to quarrel anymore, because Trump has won.” On the April call, Trump addressed Duterte warmly by his first name, Rodrigo, and Duterte thanked Trump for his sentiments on Obama.

This week, Duterte was slated to be in Russia for a five-day trip, including a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, whom he has called his “favorite hero.” On Tuesday, Duterte announced from Moscow that he was cutting the trip short in light of his declaration of martial law and fighting between rebels and the government in Mindanao.

Following the call last month, the White House publicly described a “very friendly conversation” that culminated with an invitation for an Oval Office meeting. “To endorse Duterte is to endorse a man who advocates mass murder and who has admitted to killing people himself,” said John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, reacting to the transcript. “Endorsing his methods is a celebration of the death of the poor and vulnerable.”

Duterte’s police killings are widely recognized by the international community as an ongoing atrocity. The “war on drugs” has drawn condemnation from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, and last month a Philippine lawyer filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court accusing Duterte of mass murder and crimes against humanity. The State Department’s annual human rights report acknowledges thousands of “extrajudicial killings” with impunity and calls them the country’s “chief human rights concern.”

Killing is nothing new for Duterte. His bloody record started in 1988, when he became the mayor of Davao City, a coastal city in the southern Philippines. During his tenure, he earned the nickname “the Death Squad Mayor” — a title he embraces. According to one former hitman, Duterte formed an organization called the “Davao Death Squad” — a mafia-like organization of plainclothes assassins that would kill suspected criminals, journalists, and opposition politicians, often from the backs of motorcycles. Multiple former members of the group have come forward and said that they killed people on Duterte’s direct orders.

Duterte has even bragged that he personally killed criminals from the back of a motorcycle. “In Davao I used to do it personally,” he told a group of business leaders in Manila. “Just to show to the guys [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you.”

In 2016, Duterte campaigned on a policy of mass extermination for anyone involved in the drug trade. “I’d be happy to slaughter them. If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have me,” Duterte said after his inauguration in September.

Despite human rights concerns, the U.S. has long considered the Philippines a military ally, and under Obama the U.S. gave the country’s military tens of millions of dollars in weapons and resources per year. The U.S. government does not provide lethal weapons directly to the Philippine National Police, which has a decadeslong history of extrajudicial killings. But it does allow U.S. weapons manufacturers to sell to them directly. In 2015 the State Department authorized more than $250 million in arms sales from U.S. defense contractors to security forces in the Philippines.

After Duterte’s election, Obama’s State Department halted one sale of assault rifles to the Philippines, largely due to the objections of Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Philippines became a colony of the United States in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War. A long insurgency followed, and the country didn’t win full independence until 1946.

May 14th: Louise Vincent of Piedmont USU speaks out on Harm Reduction and her experiences

Editor’s note: In our Spring 2017 issue, we published the remarkable, first-person stories of two advocates who’ve spent years fighting for the humane treatment of drug users in North Carolina and elsewhere: Steve Daniels and Louise Vincent. Here is Louise’s story, along with an introductory note. We’ll publish Steve’s story next week.

Beginning in the 1980s as a response to widespread drug abuse and to the AIDS epidemic, harm reduction tactics promoted public health by preventing diseases from spreading through shared needles. Harm reduction advocates drew inspiration from civil and human rights movements and the tactics of AIDS activist groups such as ACT UP. Many AIDS activists worked in the streets of cities like New York to promote syringe exchange access—trading dirty needles for clean ones—and agitating against the abstinence-only mindset that dominated drug treatment at that time.

These ideas and tactics, which focused on mitigating the damaging effects of drug abuse, soon spread throughout the country. Like their northern counterparts, Southern harm reduction advocates refused to wait for official policies to be passed before they acted to save lives and prevent the spread of disease. During the next 20 years, lawmakers in numerous states embraced harm reduction tactics, either out of necessity or because studies showed that syringe exchange programs slowed the spread of diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis C and did not increase drug use. New York deemed its syringe exchange program to be the “gold standard” of HIV prevention.

But despite evidence that it worked, harm reduction had its detractors. Leading the crusade were hardliners like North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, whose ultra-conservative rhetoric against needle exchange was imbued with moral condemnation. Already known for vitriolic remarks against homosexuals and for lobbying for legislation that shut down AIDS funding, Helms championed a bill in 1988 prohibiting the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. He implied that handing out clean needles was the moral equivalent to the dealer on the corner selling smack.

The result was almost no official support for harm reduction in the South, particularly in North Carolina, until the federal prohibition was lifted for the first time in 2009. In a region that is consistently ranked as one of the poorest in the country, Southern states continue to lag behind the rest of the country in public-health emergency preparedness, even as disease rates remain high. “Eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of new cases of HIV are in the South,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet today, the number of syringe exchange programs is growing and Naloxone—a drug used to reverse heroin overdose—is becoming more and more available. This shift towards a harm reduction program reflects the desperation of communities across the country that are being ravaged by escalating opioid abuse.

In North Carolina alone, heroin deaths increased 554 percent between 2010 and 2014, and the mortality figures are expected to have risen again in 2015. Prescription opioids—synthetic medications such as Oxycontin that mimic the pain-relieving properties of opiates—are believed to be a risk factor for heroin use, according to the National Institutes of Health. Of the top 25 worst cities for opioid abuse, four are in North Carolina. The number one city is Wilmington.

Last summer, North Carolina became the latest state to legalize syringe exchange and made it easier to get Naloxone. Since the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition began distributing Naloxone kits in 2013, more than 5,500 overdoses have been reversed. These steps represent a symbolic victory for harm reduction advocates who envision a South unshackled from a culture that dismisses and shames drug users.

In particular, advocates of harm reduction have strategically targeted law enforcement and elected officials, many of them Republican, in recent years to talk to them about the public health benefits of harm reduction. As more and more police departments realize that they can’t arrest their way out of the War on Drugs, law enforcement officials have come on board to distribute Naloxone and to participate in the syringe exchange, leading some to wonder if the War on Drugs has turned a corner. Harm reduction advocates remain dubious about this optimistic perspective and believe the collateral damage of the Drug War may take decades to overcome, but they view the recent wave of laws legalizing syringe exchange as a step in the right direction.

This recent legislation is a welcome respite for these harm reduction advocates who have fought for the humane treatment of drug addicts over and against the hysteria of the 40-year War on Drugs. Risking arrest and possible relapse into drug use themselves, volunteers like Steve “Gator” Daniels and Louise Vincent worked outside of the law and with few resources to organize and run underground syringe exchanges and Naloxone distribution programs in North Carolina.

Louise and Steve represent the “medics” of the drug crisis, those who saw the carnage upfront, and they continue to focus on the humanity of those they serve. Their stories speak to the difficulties of overcoming addiction and the heartache caused by chaotic drug use. But they also give us hope that many users can make significant strides towards normalizing and reclaiming their lives, even if they don’t stick to full abstinence. In this way, Louise and Steve embody the harm reduction principle of meeting people “where they’re at.”

Whatever causes people to use drugs in the face of negative consequences, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s disease, connection…I don’t have the brain for that. I don’t know what makes people do it. But I know that it’s more than just “I want to use drugs.” I know that I didn’t set out when I was seven, “You know, I think I want to disappoint everybody in my life and destroy my family and fucking get sick and lose my daughter.” I can look around in my life and every negative thing has come from either drugs or drug policy. Whatever it is, it’s not something that people choose.

I didn’t set out for this, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. The fact that we harm people even more when they’re in these vulnerable places and in these places where they desperately need love and they desperately need human compassion and empathy is unforgivable.

My world was drug-centered when I was young. If you’d said, “Do you have any hobbies?” I’d have said, “Yeah, I get high. That’s my hobby. Fuck you. I use drugs. I don’t have hobbies.” When I got older and I got involved in stuff and went to college and fell in love with the things I fell in love with and had passion about life, drugs took a backseat. It really did. My world wasn’t just drug-centered. I found some other things that I liked. When drugs started pushing up against those things, when my drug use started to wreck those things, I made decisions about my drug use. Then I was like, I don’t want to ruin these things for drugs and I could make decisions around it.

I went back to college and finished college and worked in traditional treatment and hated it. I admitted people into detox. Watched as people cycled through, listened to the other side of it. I had always been the person going to rehab. I only knew that side of it.

We have one acceptable narrative about recovery that doesn’t fit everyone. This idea of getting clean, staying clean, being 100 percent abstinent. You’re either all the way sick or all the way well. There’s no middle ground.

This is the message we have right now: “Half measures avail us nothing.” Which basically says if you don’t do it all the way, don’t even try. That’s a shitty message. That’s the message that says, “If you use, you’re going to jail and death and you might as well just go all out there and tear it up. People do it. I watch people do it everyday. They are in the program and they’re doing fine and then they use and they destroy their life in a week. That’s more than just drugs. That’s drugs and an attitude that there’s no point in even trying if you’re using.

You either learn to cope or you don’t. But that doesn’t mean that everybody that does will become abstinent. It just means that people learn how to deal with their drug problems in different ways.

Watching this in traditional treatment, I got more and more frustrated with my own life, and I relapsed at some point and I thought I had lost everything.

In order for me to get well, in order for me to get up off of that relapse where I wasn’t just killing myself, I had to find a different way to look at recovery or drug use and recovery. I could no longer use the 12-step version. I don’t have a problem with it. I think 12-step philosophy and harm reduction need to come together and find a way to work together. But for me, it didn’t work anymore. I had done everything they asked me to do. I had followed the rules in the book.

And I still relapsed.

I couldn’t buy it anymore. It didn’t make any scientific sense anyway, but it had worked for a while. But when it didn’t work and I was blamed, “Well, you didn’t do what the program asked of you.” But I did! I did do this, and I still used. Am I defective? What is wrong with me that I can’t do this?

There’s all these religious implications. If the problem is lack of God, then the solution must be God. Am I praying right? Am I not doing something right? No other issue in the world do we say…if I had cancer, you wouldn’t say, “The solution is you’re going to turn your will and care to God.” But that’s our solution for addiction. None of that was working for me anymore.

We had to have another place for people that weren’t ready to chew that up. For people that just weren’t there. If I don’t want to be 100 percent abstinent or if I need to be on medication-assisted treatment, if I need to take Methadone or Suboxone, there’s nothing wrong with that.(1) Being on Methadone maintenance or Suboxone isn’t the same as being drug-involved, in chaotic use with your life spiraling out of control.

I felt very strongly that if I had had the kind of support that would have been available had there been harm reduction programs, I wouldn’t have been in such a mess all by myself trying to figure it out.

I began searching for some answers that were different than what existed. I was trying to help myself. I wanted to figure out what was going on with me and with other people. I was watching everybody I loved and cared about die.

I was going to graduate school for public health. I was learning about syringe exchange programs. I got involved with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition.(2)

When I first heard about harm reduction, I had an internal battle in my own heart because I grew up in the South and I was conditioned with all the same junk.

It was a real battle. Am I doing the right thing? Is giving syringes to people…is this okay?

I try to really talk to people about their concerns. This same question of “aren’t we enabling?” I try to remember that I struggled, too.

It’s harm reduction. We meet people where they are. I have to remember to meet people where they are as far as coming to accept harm reduction as well. It doesn’t just work one way. I have to remember that it took an experience, being in Atlanta in The Bluff, working in the most devastated community and it came to me all at once: this is exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. This is compassion. This is love.

There was no harm reduction in Greensboro. That sucked because I really thought it would work. [The] Harm Reduction Coalition was me and one other woman. I set out at that point to make harm reduction support real…in North Carolina and especially Greensboro. I’ve been working slowly to do that since then.

We operated underground for a long time here. I got arrested a couple of times for it. That sucked. All that a syringe exchange was when it was not legal was calling my phone number, me meeting you, me giving you syringes. Or through word of mouth, satellite exchanges and me giving people syringes to give to people who need them. This was just about loading up syringes and getting syringes to people and sharing health information and Naloxone.

We were giving out Naloxone before it was legal. This was saving people’s lives. We were watching it save people’s lives. We knew people needed Naloxone. I didn’t need a study to tell me that. I saw it right up close.

People would call us. We would run to where they were and give them Naloxone sometimes. That was crazy. We did lots of that. Me and my friend, he had this bright yellow car and we’d get a phone call. They would give them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until we got there. Then we’d give them the Naloxone. If they were too far away, we would tell them to call 911. You’ve just got to.

Syringe exchange is one of the most well-studied public health programs there is. We know it works. We know it reduces disease and these motherfuckers, excuse me, dammit they’ve been letting these disease rates go sky high in the South.

Mike Pence, his state [Indiana], they just had an HIV outbreak and crisis. He didn’t want to have a syringe exchange, but he has a syringe exchange now. They had an outbreak of HIV, 136 people in a place that usually has two cases. What happened is that HIV got into the [intravenous]IV drug community. Boy, if that happens, it’s like Hepatitis C. We know that 75 percent of injection drug users have Hepatitis C.

Let that happen with HIV. We can’t have that. They opened up a syringe exchange with the most conservative people in government. They have to. They’re doing it because if they don’t, they’re responsible.

To be fiscally responsible, you have to do it. The cost of a syringe versus treating Hepatitis C and HIV: $600,000 last I checked. People with HIV are living full lives. Now we’re talking probably more than $600,000 per person. Then $100,000 for Hepatitis C. Huge cost for treatment. If we’re going to live in tertiary care where we just treat illness, we’ve got to do some prevention. They’re just at a place that they’re forced to. This isn’t because anybody wants to.

Human Rights Watch came and did a…human rights advocacy brief, and it talks about North Carolina’s failure to implement harm reduction policies and where our disease rates are and if you look at the South in terms of the rest of the United States, it’s just red.(3) You know how they have the red dots showing disease.

[The Human Rights Watch brief] was the beginning of North Carolina and the South getting attention about their failure to act. That’s where we are in the South, where our moralistic ways fly in the face of protecting our citizens from disease.

Selena was my daughter, born to a mother who was struggling with addiction and when I say that I mean struggling with everything. Selena was biracial, so here in the South I discovered racism for the first time. I had never seen it for what it truly was until I had and raised her.

Selena had a long history of mental illness. She suffered from depression, bipolar illness, anxiety, and addiction issues. I feel very strongly that she was using to deal with and “treat” her symptoms of anxiety, depression, and mania.

The maddening truth about what happened to Selena is that it was avoidable. Selena was trained in overdose prevention…I used to take her to my talks all the time. She wanted to work with me one day doing harm reduction.

I sent her to rehab, or rather we agreed she should go. We tried to find a nice place we could afford. I just wanted her to sober up…. Take a time out if you will. Like most parents, even though I knew better deep inside, I took a breathe of air. Finally, I could relax for a minute. She was safe.

The rehab she went to did not have Naloxone on-site. They obviously did not take dual diagnosis serious, even though I talked to them for hours about the importance of a treatment center that actually took her mental illness serious.(4)

No Naloxone…no real understanding of mental illness. Now my daughter who was safer at home with me is no longer here. She was my reason for living.

I am sad. So very sad. I feel I have lost so much. She meant everything to me. I just work now. I have just thrown everything into the work for right now until I can figure out how to cope. I don’t want go down that dark road I have so many times….but the pain is unbearable.

I honestly believe that pain doesn’t create change. I’ve had lots of pain, and it’s never motivated me to change a lot. It’s made me want to die a lot. It’s made me want to give up.

But it’s been passion that has been what’s moved me to move out of situations that were dangerous or damaging. It’s been that that’s driven me forward and allowed me to not destroy myself with drugs. With the death of my daughter, it wouldn’t surprise me if I just gave up. I don’t really know how I’m okay. I don’t question it a lot. I’m glad that I’m okay right now. But I know that it’s only this work. It’s only feeling like I’m a part of something that matters.


  1. Suboxone and methadone are medications that are prescribed by physicians to treat narcotic drug addiction.
  2. As the state’s most comprehensive harm reduction organization, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition educates the public about harm reduction tactics such as syringe exchange and Naloxone and lobbies elected officials and law enforcement officers about the advantages of harm reduction policies. The organization lobbied successfully for the passage of H.B. 972, which legalized syringe exchange programs in North Carolina.
  3. The advocacy brief, released in 2011 and titled “We Know What to Do: Harm Reduction and Human Rights in North Carolina,” features Louise’s struggle with drug addiction and underground syringe exchange work. Her story was related under “Linda”, a pseudonym.
  4. Dual diagnosis is a condition in which a person is diagnosed with both a mental health disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol.