Insight into the Opiate-Addicted Mind; Plus, RI Isn't Alone in Fentanyl-Related ODs

A Providence Phoenix reader in Ann Arbor, Michigan (who says we’re just a local paper?) points out that fentanyl-related overdose deaths haven’t just been a problem in Rhode Island. He refers us to a June 19 article on, “2 More Suspected Heroin Overdoses Reported as Authorities Warn About Dangerous mix,” that reports:

The overdoses came just days after Canadian police officials warned of a dangerous influx of fentanyl manufactured in illegal labs that has been mixed with, or sold as, heroin. The warning came as a response to fentanyl-related overdoses reported in British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York and Southeast Michigan.

This “2 More suspected Heroin Overdoses” story was, itself, a follow-up to a story reporting eight overdoses (two of them fatal) in Washtenaw County in the span of two days in early June. Follow the links from the Ann Arbor story -- and links at the secondary pages -- and you’ll arrive at stories from Central Pennsylvania --

Detectives eventually determined all six overdoses involved fentanyl, not heroin as originally believed. In some cases fentanyl was found at the victim's home or in a vehicle, in other cases tests confirmed the synthetic opioid was at fault...

-- and British Columbia :

The B.C. Coroners Service’s preliminary data show there have been 23 fentanyl-related deaths through April this year, compared to just 20 such deaths in all of 2012.

Meanwhile, we also heard from Bobby Oliveira, in Newport, who wants to fill us in on an element missing from our story. “The average addict has to use multiple times per day,” Bobby writes:

That means by definition that they must engage in slightly shameful (“20 in 20” aka panhandling) to criminal (boosting) to self destructive (prostitution) behaviors to get the money multiple times per day. The opiate addict is always looking to cut the work load so they are always looking for better "mixes" to cut down on the number of times they have to shame themselves and/or put themselves at risk.

Everybody has their own way of doing their opiates. It's not like on TV or in the movies where everyone just grabs a spoon, an open flame, ties off, and uses a needle. Some people cut their heroin with their psychotic meds, some oxy users have to wash down the pills with chocolate milk, some "snorters" mix in over the counter medications hoping to get the body to absorb the drug faster. Drug dealers get this and that's why they started pre-packaging with brand names. At some drug houses, you can pick between "the triangles," "the purple dot," and "the one with 2 turtles on the packet."

Therefore, when a mix of product hits the streets that kills, it goes viral in a sense. Every addict wants it, figuring they can "cut it just right" so it won't kill them. While "normal" people think "Hey, that might kill me," the addict thinks "Hey, that's strong enough [that] I might only pimp myself out or steal once a day - it will fix me."

For this reason, opiate overdoses always come in bunches.

The followup question that might be asked would be "Well, then why don't we see 200 deaths?" Because dealers get paid on the comeback, not on dead bodies. The idea is to kill a few people, make your brand really popular, and then slowly weaken it over time. Word also gets around real quickly when the strength is dialed out and then they go back to the regular dealer/mix/brand.

While my drugs of choice were alcohol and crack, I get to mentor my share of opiate users. I know way more about this than I ever wanted to.

During our email exchange, Bobby said he has been in recovery “10 years, 8 months, 27 days.”

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