OPIOID CRISIS MEDIA REPORTS ARE LETHAL SELF-PARODY IN AMERICA’S DECLINE AND DECAY
Confused experts mouth publication-ready assurances while fueling lethal crisis
by Clark Miller
Published March 1, 2022
“but treatment can help”
Doctor Alison Lynch is the director of the opioid addiction clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She says fentanyl is a serious issue.
“It’s made it much hard to resuscitate somebody if they do have an overdose. In the past, if someone had a heroin overdose we could use Narcan — and often one dose or maybe a couple of doses would work, ” she says. “And now that fentanyl is in the drug supply — it can take multiple doses of Narcan….and even then it can be really hard to get somebody out of that overdose.”
“You join the job to help make an impact on people’s lives – not hold them over till their next hit. It’s like watching multiple suicides in slow motion and all you can do is stand and watch from a world removed. At least I have a way out.”
As a Calgary firefighter, I’ve seen the opioid epidemic escalate from a “new thing” into a full-blown national nightmare. In 2014, I transferred to one of the busier districts in the city, near Chinook Mall where overdoses soon became commonplace.
. . .
As the epidemic hit its stride, my crew received a bittersweet letter of commendation from EMS for our performance responding to an overdose. A lifeless body at the bottom of a narrow public stairwell leading to an underground parkade. Surrounded by needles. Taking agonal breaths as his unconscious body struggled to keep him from the brink. My partner and I, both over six feet, contorted ourselves around him in the claustrophobic corridor, desperately trying to avoid a needle strike as we slid our arms under his limp body to carry him up the stairs and onto a stretcher.
Once there, EMS gave him multiple shots of naloxone. He eventually came back and he was erratic and oblivious to what had just happened. I remember EMS said they’d have to monitor him because they were concerned he’d crash again in minutes from all the drugs in his system. But the sound of distant sirens made him bolt upright.
“The cops,” he stuttered as his eyes scanned the distance. We tried to reassure him it wasn’t the cops and they weren’t coming for him. But, unconvinced, he violently wrestled himself out of the stretcher and sprinted away. If a person refuses treatment, there’s nothing we can do.
. . .
People often react to us firefighters like we’re there to judge or get them in trouble. When patients aren’t honest about the drugs they’ve taken, it makes it harder for us to help them — which is what we’re there for — whether that means giving them oxygen until the medics arrive, or doing CPR so they make it to the emergency room.
Some of the people we treated got mad at us for killing their high. That’s one of the more depressing aspects — instead of being aware we just saved their life, they seemed upset they weren’t high anymore.
. . .
We avoid thinking about the stories for these patients — it’s too depressing to acknowledge that our work likely has little to no long- term impact.
. . .
As I retire after 13 years of service and pivot into a new career, there is plenty I’ll miss about firefighting. All the crews. Firehall life. Being at the centre of catastrophic events and feeling like our interventions were meaningful.
But leaving the front lines of the opioid epidemic is one of the things I’m most looking forward to.
You join the job to help make an impact on people’s lives – not hold them over till their next hit. It’s like watching multiple suicides in slow motion and all you can do is stand and watch from a world removed. At least I have a way out.
But back to Dr. Lynch in Iowa –
But she says there are treatment options, and she encourages Iowans who are struggling to seek help.
“I can’t tell you how many success stories we have in our clinic. We have so many people who arrived and their substance abuse or their opioid use have become kind of chaotic and things have really gotten to a crisis point — and then they get started in treatment — and really quickly we can see a lot of progress,” she says. “They start feeling better and they are able to focus on setting some goals for themselves and really make a lot of progress pretty quickly in getting into recovery.”
“I can’t tell you how many . . .”
Sure you can. Tell us. We really want to know about the successes. How many vulnerable Iowans of those you’re handing out bupe and methadone to are overcoming their high-risk opioid use to lead safe lives. How many? For more than a month or a few months – for a year or two, confirmed by random drug screens and being followed in treatment, real treatment?
No. Not how many, as it seems to you “make a lot of progress pretty quickly in getting into recovery”.
What could that possibly mean, “getting into recovery” Going to the meetings that predict return to problem substance use at 90 to 95 percent failure? And how many days or weeks or months after “getting into recovery” do they end up dead by overdose? By the fentanyl they traded their prescribed bupe, from your clinic, for?