The So-Called Heroin Crisis

December 13, 2014

Suddenly the politicians and the corporate media notice that suburbanites use opiates

One year ago in December 2013 the local corporate media was aghast and screaming about an incident that happened in Clifton Park, the highest income suburb outside of Albany. Like all too many high income suburbs across the country, the Saratoga County township is a heavily subsidized wasteland of parking lots and sprawl populated mainly with blank, alienated children and distracted adults who ignore their kids as much as possible. That this incident was considered surprising by anyone is really the only surprising thing.

It seems that during school hours at Shenendehowa public high school in Clifton Park, a 17 year old student was accused of helping a 15 year old student use a hypodermic needle to inject heroin. The reports say the kids were seen exchanging pills near the lockers, another kid ratted out the stoners. The 15 year old admitted shooting up, school officials called the State Troopers and arrests of the kids were followed with public hand wringing.

As a result of this incident the local corporate media announced that heroin had “arrived” in the suburbs, like all of a sudden. Total bullcrap. Local suburban kids have been using heroin and prescribed opiates for decades. What makes this certainly nasty and high-profile incident significant was that it caused the sudden collapse of the local corporate media’s careful censorship of reports of widespread heroin use and arrests across the local suburbs of the Capital District.

Shenendehowa Student And Heroin User Daniel Lewis Shenendehowa Student And Heroin User Daniel Lewis

One of the few local media sources that have been reporting on heroin use in the suburbs over the years is the reliable and decidedly non-corporate Altamont Enterprise, a venerable weekly newspaper that covers the Hilltowns and western suburbs of Albany County. Incidents such as the frequent heroin arrests at the Crossgates Mall parking lot have been consistently reported by the Enterprise, most often in the paper’s police blotter. Yet until recently these same stories, no matter how spectacular, simply did not appear in either the daily newspapers or on the TV or radio.

The very specific purpose of this careful censorship of suburban drug use was to maintain the illusion that heroin sales and use is a problem confined to urban communities such as Albany, Schenectady and Troy. The illusion was mostly successful for a long time, it fed into the widespread suburbanite prejudice against sustainable urban communities and against those of us who live in Cities. The censorship helped reinforce the suburbanite delusion of superiority, they’re clean living people while us urban dwellers are dirty and inferior.

Now, I have nothing against harmless delusions, but these particular delusions have an expensive social impact that falls directly on my shoulders, and upon those of my neighbors. Because these suburbanites have traditionally denied the existence of heroin and prescription opiate use in their municipalities, they don’t have the support services or really any way to deal with their own homegrown drug problem. What these suburbanites do routinely is to dump their heroin and alcohol addicts on the Cities, all too often on the South End of Albany where I live.

Adam Rappaport, His Mother’s Favorite Photo and His Mug Shot Adam Rappaport, His Mother’s Favorite Photo and His Mug Shot

Last month the Altamont Enterprise told the tragic backstory of 22 year old Adam Rappaport, who hung himself to death in Albany County Jail in October. A lifelong resident of Guilderland (a suburb in western Albany County) Mr. Rappaport became addicted to opiates while still in his teens. After he was hospitalized because of a snowboarding accident at 16 he was given basically an unlimited supply of prescription oxycodone to take home, a familiar story.

These opiate prescriptions, which doctors and medical centers hand out like door prizes these days, is probably the number one reason why heroin has become increasingly popular with younger people and become “a crisis.” It appears to be very easy to receive opiate prescriptions and to become addicted. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of these legal opiate addicts.

Some people, a minority, really like the way opiates make them feel and keep wanting more, much the way a small but significant part of the population likes the drug alcohol and can’t get enough. Most opiate addicts that I’ve encountered lately appear to be content with the legal pills, either dozing about the house or sleepwalking through their days. But some seem to want a stronger feeling from their downers and gravitate toward stronger opiates like heroin, apparently Mr. Rappaport was one of those people.

Front Door Of The Albany City Mission On South Pearl Street Front Door Of The Albany City Mission On South Pearl Street

By September of this year Mr. Rappaport’s life situation had disintegrated alarmingly. He could no longer take care of himself properly, and various attempts to detox him had failed and he had become suicidal. At that point his only friend and supporter was his mother, who was trying to help him but was running out of options.

I can only have sympathy for his mother, no parent should ever have to go through such an ordeal. But what she did next, as I read the Enterprise account at my kitchen table, made me want to start flinging dinnerware around the room. I certainly started cursing. So what does a suburban mother do with a son who is a hopeless addict and a burden on society? From the Enterprise:

“He didn’t want to be a burden,” she said. “He had exhausted all of his options for living.” Through tears, she said, “I brought him to the city mission. I didn’t know what else to do… I wanted him to at least have a warm place to sleep and food. They were so welcoming and there was no judgment”… Unfortunately, she said, his detox did not last, and he went back to using heroin, getting high during the day before going to the Capital City Rescue Mission for the night.