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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beautiful Vermont and Rural Scioto County -- Predictable Heroin Explosions

Eve Rivait rode her first horse at the age of five. She felt that being on the back of a horse provided relief from the boredom and isolation that, for her, were a dominant part of growing up in Milton, Vermont. As Eve got older she continued her love for horses; she began spending afternoons exercising the herd at Missy Ann Stables not far from her home. Before she could drive a car, Eve was training horses at various barns in the area where seasoned farmhands asked about her knack for taming those with the wildest of temperaments.

David Amsden writes in Rolling Stone of Eve and how the explosion of drugs like OxyContin has given way to a heroin epidemic ravaging the least likely corners of America - like pastoral Vermont.

"Away from the stables, Eve attracted the attention of adults in other ways. Skipping school. Clashing with teachers. Running away from a home where the disintegration of her parents' marriage – her mother worked for Homeland Security, her father as a project manager in construction – had created an environment more toxic than nurturing.

"In 2004, when Eve was 12, she discovered what seemed an easier way to rein in a mind that felt hard-wired to pinball from one extreme to the other. Her grandfather had just died of brain cancer, leaving behind a medicine cabinet stocked with the powerful opiate OxyContin, a substance Eve understood was prescribed by doctors to 'make pain go away.' She swallowed one. The sensation it produced was more seductive than any she had ever felt: Home, she thought. This is home. 'I could be alone with myself,' she says, 'and not freak out.'

"Though it was a private solution to private pain, Eve was far from alone in discovering the pleasures of opiates. By the time she was 18, the same kids who once talked about the thrill of smoking pot were now praising the joys of 'oxys,' not to mention 'vikes' and 'perc-30s,' the street names for Vicodin and the pale-blue 30-milligram tablets of oxycodone.
"Eve was out of high school, renting a room on the outskirts of Middlebury, a picturesque college town an hour south of Milton, when she started dating a boy who taught her that grinding and snorting the pills produced a more potent high. This led to a daily habit, though she never entertained the idea that she was developing a problem. An addict wouldn't be able to keep jobs at multiple stables. An addict couldn't make her rent and car payments on time. An addict didn't rescue a horse from a racetrack, as Eve did.

"By the time Eve's relationship ended, six months later, another opiate was making a comeback. She had been dating her next boyfriend for only a few weeks when she came home to find him preparing to inject a needle filled with heroin into his arm – a sight so jarring it felt like a hallucination. Junkies, she thought, were people in places like the Bronx or Baltimore, not the middle of Vermont.

"But soon more people she knew were shooting up, and Eve's shock morphed into curiosity, heroin's corrosive reputation diminished by the fact that everyone compared it to a drug she'd already tried: 'It's like oxys,' she kept hearing, 'only cheaper.' So one evening, in the fall of 2010, distraught after her boyfriend stormed out in the wake of an argument, Eve took his stash from the bedside table.

"From her experience medicating horses she knew how to use a syringe; how much heroin to put in it, however, was a mystery. She opted for what she thought was a tiny amount – three small baggies of the beige powder. Moments after injecting it into her arm, Eve was on the bathroom floor, semi­conscious and unable to move."

(David Amsden. "The New Face of Heroin." Rolling Stone. April 03, 2014.)

For a short time, Eve hid her habit from everyone close to her as she was attempting to maintain some semblance of normality. She would work at stables and sneak off to corners of the barn to shoot up. Eve eventually felt at odds with herself, and she soon became a young woman desperately trying to remain functional.

Money became a major issue, and Eve ignored bills. She even began stealing checks from her mom. Amsden says, "When she began neglecting her horse, it was becoming evident that she had crossed a line familiar to addicts, in which the point of using has shifted from experiencing a transcendent high to keeping the pernicious symptoms of withdrawal at bay." Eve explains: "The part of my day that I dedicated to doing heroin, to finding and using, became the whole day," she says.

Then, in the late summer of 2012, Eve had just shot up at a supplier's house when the dealer who lived there answered his cellphone, shouting at the person on the other end. From what Eve could determine, he was speaking with a customer who, already in debt, was asking for another advance to keep from getting sick. Eve recalls: "Finally, he said, 'Come by, you'll get what you want.'"

The customer did just that. The dealer let him into the house, pulled out a gun, and shot the addict in the head. Amsden says, "While the floor was scrubbed with bleach, the corpse was wrapped in a tarp, then a carpet, then driven off in a waiting car."

Please click here and read the entire Rolling Stone article:

Familiar Path to Heroin Addiction

Around 2010, America began a vigorous push to close the pill mills where doctors without ethics were known to write tons of prescriptions under dubious pretexts to make their fortunes. Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, was pressured to reformulate the drug -- first marketed to doctors as "virtually nonhabit-forming" with slogans like "the one to stay with" -- so the pills would turn into a gelatinous substance when crushed, making it difficult to condense the drug's 12-hour release into a single hit by snorting or injecting it. ("Gummies," they are called on the street.)

While these combined efforts led to a sharp decline in availability, they also grossly inflated the prices for black-market pharmaceuticals and didn't eliminate the fact that a handful of billion-dollar pharmaceutical giants had unintentionally created "gateway" drugs to heroin of extraordinary persuasiveness – each one given the reassuring stamp of approval by the FDA.

To the cartels in Mexico and South America in the business of supplying the U.S. with the bulk of its heroin, a drug derived from the seeds of poppy plants grown primarily in Afghanistan and Mexico, the clampdown on pharmaceutical exuberance presented an opportunity of unprecedented scope: Heroin, a drug that had been a hard sell for a generation, could now be promoted to the scores of Americans like Eve who had gotten a taste of opiates – with the market for potential customers larger and more diverse than ever. Increased demand created lower prices, and today 77 percent of recent heroin users say they switched to the drug after first trying prescription painkillers.

Filling the Void -- Here We Go Again

Now white heroin has arrived; it is a cheaper, purer blend of the narcotic than predecessors such as Mexican black tar or Colombian brown. At around $15 a pop, the street drug is a bargain.

"What we're seeing in the 21st century is that drug abuse is more addictive and more deadly than other, previous periods," said James Hall, a drug abuse epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University. "This is just beginning."

Since the 1970s, heroin has been widely regarded as an inner-city or fringe issue far from the middle-class mainstream. This is changing. "The demographics are totally different," Hall said. "The new heroin population is whiter. It's not inner city; it's suburbia."

(Michael Van Sickler. "After pill mill crackdown, heroin fills a void."
Tampa Bay Times. May 16, 2014.) 

Scioto -- A Major Part of the National Picture

Here, the pill mills in Scioto County -- where once there were more than a dozen such clinics -- caused an unparalleled health epidemic and created regional collateral damage, feeding addiction and crime in surrounding counties and states that lacked the clinics but not the people they served. "I would describe it as if a pharmaceutical atomic bomb went off," said Lisa Roberts, a nurse for the health department in Portsmouth.

All ages were affected by the illegal distribution. In late January 2010, police were called to Valley Middle School where a junior high school girl had been caught with a plastic bag full of hydrocodone, a powerful painkiller. She had found the drugs at home and, with a fellow student, was distributing them to other classmates. The youngest of the group was in the seventh grade.


The prescription drug problem took its toll in numerous ways: including widespread addiction, high overdose deaths, spiraling hepatitis C rates, a thriving pill-based underground economy, and nearly one in 10 babies born addicted to drugs.

The overdose mixture became common enough that locals even gave it a name -- the Portsmouth Cocktail -- for the lethal combination of opiates, sedatives and muscle relaxants that brought the coroner's van.
Clinic owners like George Marshall Adkins claimed their businesses had safeguards against alleged abuse. "To my knowledge they ran the place in accordance with the way they were supposed to," said attorney Mike Mearan, of Portsmouth, about his client's pill mill.

(Andrew Welsh-Huggins. "Documents: Ohio 'pill mill' was corrupt drug den."
Fox News.

Of course, this was not true. The pill mill players knew exactly what illegal practices they followed, but cared only about profit. The opioid pain pills supplied by the mills were the major factor in recent heroin addiction, and it seems the move to the illicit substance was inevitable... certainly predictable.

Columbus is less than 100 miles from Scioto County. Its central location between border crossings -- the Mexican border, Miami, Detroit and New York -- has made it a hub for foreign drug traffickers. Multikilo shipments arrive daily, some worth more than $1 million, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Hunter, who serves on the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force for Ohio’s southern district.

Dealers reap profits of double or triple the wholesale value while keeping street prices well below prescription pills’ in an effort to attract new users. Orman Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, said dealers generally target teens and young adults, most of whom start with prescription pills and graduate to heroin.

“What remains is a population of individuals who have gotten addicted to opiates, and their preferred drug is no longer available,” said Joan Papp, medical director for Project DAWN, an Ohio Department of Health program aimed at distributing the overdose-stopping drug Naloxone. “The heroin market really just took over.”

(Ian Kullgren. "Pill crackdown opens door to heroin in suburbs."
The Columbus Dispatch. August 4, 2013.)

Whether you live in Milton, Vermont, or in Scioto County, Ohio, you are faced with a continuing opiate scourge that has largely morphed from its beginnings in the prescription pill mill operations to the thriving heroin trade.

Here is an example of an arrest by state, local, and federal officials that occurred in May, 2013:

Authorities charged 18 drug-trafficking suspects with possession of and intent to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin. The suspects were involved in a conspiracy to move heroin from Dayton to Portsmouth that continued for two years primarily because there’s a better market for it in the Scioto County.

Of those charged, nine people were from Portsmouth, eight were from Dayton and one was from Lancaster.

(Danae King. "18 charged with taking heroin to Portsmouth."
The Columbus Dispatch. May 24, 2013.) 

And, here is information about one more arrest in July, 2014:

The Southern Ohio Drug Task Force reported 22 people had been indicted as part of a drug operation with ties to Portsmouth and Columbus. The indictments came after an 18 month investigation. Officials say some of those facing charges are part of the 22nd St. or Deuce Deuce Gang in Columbus.

Charges ranged from Felony Drug Trafficking to Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity.

The following people were arrested over the weekend by Portsmouth police, Scioto County deputies, Columbus Police Special Services Bureau and other law enforcement:

Andre J. Gilliam, 28, of Gilbert St. Columbus
Orlando Smith, 28, of Dancer Place Columbus
Keluan J. Skinner-Byrd, 19, of Lamarque Court Columbus
Vernita S. Williams, 29, of Dancer Place Columbus
Brittanee M. Baker, 23, of Payday Lane Columbus
Darrin “Bert” Thompson, 43, of 5th St. Portsmouth
William L. Armbrister, 66, of 5th St. Portsmouth
James D. Young Sr., 52, of Scioto Trail Portsmouth
Carrie M. Young, 48, of Scioto Trail Portsmouth
Patricia D. Charles, 42, of 7th St. Portsmouth
Stephanie S. Nuckols, 34, of 8th St. Portsmouth
Robert “Bo” Clemens, 58, of Franklin Ave. Portsmouth

Seven people were already in jail when the indictments came down.

Thomas Smith, 26, of South Ohio Ave. Columbus
Ronald E. Fields, 21, of South 22nd St. Columbus
Courtney L. Anderson, 26, of South 22nd St. Columbus
Jason J. Turner, 26, of Berkeley Rd. Columbus
Troy A. Hines, 31, of Woodrow Ave. Columbus
Charles E. Sadler, 32, of Scioto Trail Portsmouth
Teresa G. Mosley, 43, of Scioto Trail Portsmouth, Oh.

Authorities are still looking for three individuals who have been charged.

Kelvin L. Hayden, 31, of Petzinger Rd. Columbus
John W. Kullum II, 33, of Rosslare Harbor Drive of Pickerington
James D. Young Jr.,29, of Scioto Trail Portsmouth

("22 People Indicted As Part Of Columbus To Portsmouth Drug Ring.
10 TV Columbus. July 28, 2014.)

And the beat goes on and on and on ....

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