Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lying and Dying- The Reality of the Epidemic

I took this picture to the left. It was an inside growing room right next to where my brother was found dead of an overdose in a trailer full of drugs on Sept. 7 this past year... a sad reality to the house of lies we are invited into everyday by those who want their weed and need their high.

It's happening in my town.... it is also happening in yours.

A bill filed by Rep. Patricia Todd, a democrat from Birmingham, would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Currently, possession of marijuana in that amount is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by jail time and fines. Todd’s bill, HB257, would make it simply a ticket offense.

“Possession charges for people clog up a lot of our court services,” Todd said. “This would help eliminate some of that bottleneck.”

The bill would specifically lower penalties for recreational users, not dealers who may be in possession of much higher quantities. Further, Todd believes the change would create much needed revenue for the state as offenders are forced to pay tickets.

“I believe it’s safer than alcohol,” Todd said. “If people could take their emotions out of it, I think most people would agree with me.”

I'm getting so tired of the messaging of lies..... how many more are going to die?

I already know the pushback... it is a mind-set and a group think...... the argument of ideas that sound good... but those in the morgue and the families who grieve in the wake of it don't buy the rhetoric.

Dr. Shannon Murphy is in Birmingham as well. Dr. Murphy is tirelessly doing everything she can to give good information to kids and parents- but she will tell you it is an uphill battle. At least she is trying to counter the message. And she has experienced the attack of the opposition..... just like anyone else who tries to point to the reality that is hidden is a cloud of smoke and haze.

She shared recently some important points with me.

I have been where you are, and I am familiar with the push back.

We just have to remember that the marijuana industry has the media working
for them essentially. As a result, the public does not hear the facts.
Often, even when they hear facts, they will try to refute or diminish

Only an ounce of marijuana...come on, what's the harm?

1 ounce (@ 28 grams) of pot is a lot. An ounce of pot typically makes about 60 marijuana joints, but this will vary on potency of joint (so there is a range anywhere from 30-100).

Can you give me some medical facts as a doctor? Isn't pot safer than alcohol?

That statement right there is straight out of the pro marijuana playbook, 'Pot is safer than alcohol'..... here are some thoughts:

Every drug has its own unique set of risks. Saying pot is safer than
alcohol is like saying, 'I¹m going to jump out of a 3rd floor window,
instead of a 4th floor window.'

Marijuana is more potent today than in previous years. The average THC

level 20 years ago was 3%, we are now seeing plants with THC levels upward

of 17% (sometimes higher). Additionally, marijuana is no longer a plant.

There are new forms of marijuana (concentrates) that can be anywhere from

60-80% THC.

They come in the form of waxes and oils that can be inhaled, vaped, or eaten.

Science has shown marijuana impacts many body systems. The American Lung

Association has said that marijuana smoke has many of the same toxins that

are present in tobacco smoke leading to serious lung illness including

chronic cough, wheeze, and frequent infections. Marijuana has also been

shown to impact the heart system with links to strokes and arrhythmias.

Marijuana¹s hit on the brain is especially concerning. Use has been linked

to impaired memory and learning, as well as mental health issues such as

depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

(A news report came out 2 days ago: 
Smoking cannabis ALTERS your DNA 'causing mutations that can trigger serious illness, including cancer' )

In fact, since legalization in Colorado, hospitalizations and ER visits for marijuana have increased significantly (38% and 29%) respectively.

Portraying pot as a 'safe' drug is impacting our teens in a harmful way.

Perception of risk associated with using marijuana has dropped considerably. In fact, marijuana use now surpasses tobacco use for most young people. In Colorado, past month youth use rates are now 56% higher than the rest of the nation. 

We need to stop the "spin," and get the facts out for our children.

Know that the industry challenges data much like the tobacco industry did. They obscure and deny health harms.

My friends, are you willing to really read the facts for yourself?

Try this link to the Rocky Mountain HIDTA report on the Impact of legalization 2015.

The Colorado legalization experiment is a failure by any measurement you might want to try.

I still think about my comes like a sneak attack... it was 4:15 AM this morning....


My brother was born when I was 10- and even though we grew up in the same home, it was NOT the same neighborhood.

At 24, I was finishing up college at the University of Alabama. My 14 year old brother was introduced to marijuana.

He never was a bad guy. Lee was a much sweeter person than I ever will be. He loved people and he was fun to be around. But four years of pot became a somewhat dull routine and he was looking for more. At 18, he was talked into shooting up a drug called dilaudid by a pretty girl at a party.

According to Lee, the high lasted for over a day and he would spend the rest of his life chasing that high... and would never find it again.

For 10 years, my brother hid his habit. He covered needle marks with tattoos and and he never showed signs of his growing addiction. But it didn't take long after that for everything to crumble.

In a very short span, Lee totaled 2 cars, stole from my parents, stole from my grandmother, shoplifted, prostituted himself....

At the end of his 1st overdose, my brother was taking (according to him) 5 to 7 hits a day and the high lasted mere seconds. He needed the drug now to stay away from painful withdrawals including fever, chills, muscle spasms, and nausea.

He came to the family for help and we ALL tried. My wife and I gave him a Honda Accord and he wrecked it in less than a week. He tried Celebrate Recovery and I used to take him to the Friday night meetings. I took him to church and he actually bought pills AT CHURCH! I took him to the movies and, as I watched him carefully, he popped a small pill right under my nose.

The most eye opening experience was taking him to the methadone clinic... and I watched men and women of all colors and backgrounds pour in and out of that place. I was sad to see him dependent on Methadone and cigarettes just to make it through a day.

The government called him cured... but he had hepatitis C, no health insurance, no steady job...

He would have long seasons of sobriety.. got a job... but none of it lasted.

And what was left in the wake of this- a broken hearted family. My mom died pre-maturely... she was so worried about Lee that she neglected her own health. My grandmother spent money she didn't have on him. My dad visited the hospital too many times wondering if Lee would live or die.

Last August/September, we knew he had relapsed.. and were planning an intervention. He showed up at the emergency room at Baptist Princeton and raised a ruckus, trying to get pain medication. Sadly, the junkies can get it too easily from the hospitals.

So, after a fun Labor Day with my family, I got the sad news from my aunt that next early morning ... Lee was gone.

No one was surprised.

I asked law enforcement officers to watch over me as I drove to Lassiter Mountain in Mt Olive, Alabama and my heart sank to see how low it had gotten with my brother.

The trailer was filthy. And I stared at the last spot of his life. As with most addicts who relapse- the amount his body used to be able to handle was now a needle of death. Later on, I discovered that the line of heroin that killed him was taking people down all over the place. The evil irony was that this batch was laced with phentermine, the same stuff that killed Michael Jackson.

The picture below is where his final attempt to capture bliss stopped his beating heart.

What you can't see is that his 'lover' had already cleaned out anything of value left in the trailer. His computer, stereo, cash was all taken. The very next morning, this man showed up and attempted to collect life insurance falsely claiming my brother was his husband.

I grabbed what I could of Lee's and found journals and notes written back and forth between this man and my brother. He called Lee his "Binky" and had Lee take him to the casinos to blow a settlement the insurance company had paid out on the last wreck.

Those in the drug culture use and abuse more than just the drugs.... they suck the life out of everything around them. I pray for all of them... but consequences are contained in the activities.

I had gotten permission to get all of Lee's possession (what was left of them) out of the you can imagine the shock of looking in that room and seeing all of the pot plants and the giant grow room.

I wiped away some tears.... we think we know the danger of heroin.... but what we have NO CLUE about is the scourge of marijuana.

I work with teens on a daily basis for almost 30 years... and I have seen it robbing kids of their future too many times!

Once a kid starts that lifestyle... nothing else matters....

The week my brother died was the very first day we started universal and random drug testing at my school. The program is designed to give kids one more good reason to say no.

It will not stop all use.... nothing will... but even if one kid is prevented from ending up like my brother, then it is worth it.

And if decriminalizing it allows just one more kid to end up a junkie... it is too high a cost!

Mrs. Todd will tell me to take my emotions out of it. 

But let me ask you... when your brother is gone... what advice do you have to take the emotion out?

Those that support it... your opinion will not change... you are showing what it is like to have your brain on drugs.....

Any questions?


Cyndy Schatz said...

Like a ton of bricks hit me as I read because I lived this same story with my 2 brothers. The oldest of my parents 4 children, 12 years my elder, killed himself at the age of 45, a few months after my mom died at 60 years old. It starts with pot but never ends there for an addict. Sadly, the stories for addicts are almost all identical. Lies, stealing, crimes, jail, recovery, then the cycle just repeats until they die or kill themselves. My younger brother is still alive... but barely after 4 strokes now after a lot of years of crack/cocaine....that started with pot....from our older brother. He will no doubt also die young. Our parents taught us to do the right thing, to be good Christians, and we never had any exposure to that kind of life. Somehow they get sucked into the life that spirals out of control. They can all hide it for a while, but then it takes them down fast. It's hard to watch someone so talented and smart give up their life that way. Thank you for sharing this hard truth. Sadly, it's the truth of more families near us than we may ever know. It's a hard and sad story to tell.

Brad said...

Very well written recount of a tough family challenge. It is amazing how many families, including mine, have had similar struggles. My prayers are with you and your family Coach.

Anonymous said...

My brother also lived this life. At 39 he entered a residential Christian program that saved his life. He was restored and returned to us and his wife and family. I know we are one of the lucky ones. It breaks my heart goes all families who deal with drugs and addiction. The families in Colorado will suffer for years because of their decision. Thank you for sharing. And your right, we need to educate more.

Unknown said...

My brother died at 24, same story, chapter and verse. Killed when he crashed a motorcycle while high, trying to out maneuver a power Co truck. So wasted a bartender friend cut him off, minutes before the crash. So many people lie and steal and Continue to die. The Dr is correct. It's all a lie. More will die and even more will waste their lives chasing the high. And the leave behind siblings and parents and friends who had to watch the nightmare unfold.

Will said...

I'm sorry for your loss - but you are trying to link a full-blown intravenous opiate addiction to marijuana......

Mj had little to do with his death other than the fact that it was in the same trailer. Things that are illegal tend to congregate - the bill decriminalizing possession is common sense - if they are stopped with weed and diluadid (like your brother) over.

I am sorry for your loss - I am in recovery myself and have lost many family members to this terrible disease. Opiates and addiction are a scourge - don't drag marijuana into the picture. I know several former opiate addicts who have had their lives saved by using weed to deal with getting off opiates. No one has ever died from weed.

And you talk about "the industry" spinning facts.....the multi-billion dollar alcohol and tobacco industries want to fight this from happening.....but their isn't a "weed industry" to "spin facts".

I just find this blog very disappointing - the real issue is addiction - and frankly, decriminalization of minor possession offenses and drug courts save far more lives by letting people get the treatment they need and get into recovery that they couldn't if we just threw them in jail. Fight for better health services to treat addiction (especially for low-income folks), fight to remove the stigma of addiction - it can impact anyone, fight the overuse of opiate based painkillers and work to spread the knowledge of how deadly people keeping old prescriptions for others to find is, fight the laws that greatly limit the number of suboxone patients a doctor can treat (a drug which has saved countless addicts and helped them move into recovery)......but seriously, don't use it to fight a bill that will make small amounts of weed an offense that only gives you a ticket, rather than throwing them in with worse people in the criminal justice system.

Anonymous said...

I'm relieved someone else feels the same about this blog. The root of the problem is addiction. I think a lot of people move on to hard drugs from mj because it is not giving them what they want. They think it will because of the media and what the government has told every. They think it's a big bad drug, so they start with that but realize it's not as tough as they've been told, so they look elsewhere. So much good can come from mj for medical (real medical) issues. Seizures, cancer, nausea from chemo. This country needs to realize mental health is just as important as mental health, and try to get rid of the negative stigma attached to it.

Didn't mean to ramble. But I appreciated your non biased thoughts on the matter.

Anonymous said...
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Jayopsis said...

I knew it wouldn't take long for some to still protect MJ in light of this post. There is a BI-PARTISAN group called Smart Approached to Marijuana that I encourage you to spend time reading their research and policy statements.