RIGHT. AND FOR PEOPLE WHO JUST CAN’T STOP ON THEIR OWN — There’s treatment. Treatment is available.

FREE TREATMENT? Well. Not necessarily free. But certainly covered treatment, because many more people have health insurance than did even three months ago. We have 35,000 to 40,000 more Rhode Islanders covered today than we did six months ago.

SO, IF I’M ADDICTED AND I HEAR YOU TELLING ME TO STOP AND I SAY, “OK, I’M GOING TO DO IT.” Call 211. You’re gonna get someone who listens to you and connects you to a treatment facility or option.


Conjectures include: down economy; bad weather – people can’t do stuff outside, so they’ve got to do stuff inside; the culture has kind of shifted to say, “It’s OK to do drugs.” You hear rumors about parties on the East Side [of Providence] and parties on the West Side, parties in East Greenwich. . . that it’s become culturally acceptable to get high in ways it wasn’t a year or two ago. Take things like Breaking Bad. That kind of puts a different message out in the culture.

Part of the way I make sense [of] it is understanding that, my colleagues who do drug addiction work tell me that about 10% of the population is susceptible to addiction, genetically and socially. About 3 percent are addicted at any one point, which means we’ve got 20,000 to 30,000 addicted Rhode Islanders today. That, by itself, is a pretty big number.

If you take the potential-for-addiction argument, that means that 90 percent of us are relatively unlikely to get addicted. You take 100 people, 90 of them might do drugs and not have a problem with it — if they don’t die — from an addiction perspective. That’s why this is, intellectually, a little difficult. Because it means everybody has a friend who did drugs and then walked away from it. But that doesn’t counter the fact that everybody also has a friend who did drugs and got sucked into the vortex and ended up crazy or dead.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS INSIDE A PERSON’S BODY WHEN THEY DIE FROM AN OVERDOSE? What really happens is their breathing stops. It depends on how much they shoot and how fast they shoot it and how pure it is and maybe what their tolerance is, so the time course is hard to estimate. We heard an awful story that I don’t think we’ve actually corroborated yet, but the story of somebody who died with a needle in one arm and a baby cradled in the other arm, sleeping. So it clearly happens fast to some people. It could happen as fast as: you lose consciousness and your breathing stops inside of a minute or two. The drug, itself, it depresses your [brain’s] respiratory center.

LET’S TALK ABOUT NARCAN, THE MEDICATION WE’RE HEARING MORE AND MORE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AND FIRST RESPONDERS ARE CARRYING. WHAT IS IT? It is what’s called an antagonist. It displaces morphine and morphine-related compounds from receptors in the brain — kicks them out. So if it’s present, morphine and fentanyl [the potent synthetic opiate that’s been a factor in many recent RI deaths] and heroin can’t work.

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