Putting Faces to Addiction Recovery

In the mid-1990s I was a journalist at an alternative newsweekly, the Colorado Springs Independent. One day a man contacted me and asked if we could meet to talk about what he thought was a grave injustice: the county health department was withholding effective methadone treatment for heroin addicts who were trying to get clean and sober. However, he said, if you were addicted to opioids (essentially synthetic heroin) that had been prescribed by a doctor, you got all the methadone you needed. You also got treated differently, he said. It was basically junkies versus regular people in the eyes of the people at the health department, he said.

"I just want to stay clean," he told me, "and they're making it almost impossible."

He brought me reams of research, I did some interviews, and we published the story as a feature.

Fast-forward more than 20 years to today.

I read a NY Times article yesterday called "A Small-Town Police Officer's War on Drugs." In the article the officer being profiled recounts a presentation he gave to "some prominent people in the community." Afterwards one of those prominent people came up to the officer.

"...the man said: 'It's a really good job you're doing. I think it's great. But my opinion is, if they stick a needle in their arm they should die.'

"'I'm sorry you feel that way,' [the officer] said, startled. 'I'd hope you would feel differently if it was your own family member.'

"But the man shook his head. 'That will never happen.'"

Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is just ignorance.