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Substance abuse takes its toll on families

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This letter concerns the article published Sept. 22, titled, “Aftermath of an overdose: Heroin use on the rise in Jefferson County,” written by Daniel Flatley.

I am a student at Jefferson Community College doing an internship at the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Jefferson County. As a double major of human services and chemical dependency, it saddens me to read of the unfortunate death of Ms. Cuatt’s son, 22-year-old Harry Gonzalez.

As a native of Chicago, I have personally witnessed the demise of relatives, friends and communities to alcohol and substance abuse. I lost my father just over 10 years ago to stage 4 lung cancer and alcoholism. He was only 48 years old.

Moreover, our youths have been falling by enormous numbers to abuse and addiction of illegal substances without the proper awareness and education. Therefore, I am inclined to agree with Ms. Cuatt’s assertion that improved community policing and law enforcement getting to know and establishing relationships with drug users is a great idea.

Making Narcan more widely available is one such intervention in helping save lives. Another intervention is the 911 Good Samaritan Law, which protects overdose victims and those calling for immediate medical assistance {911) in good faith from prosecution for underage possession of alcohol and for holding or sharing without compensation or benefit small amounts of drugs.

Sadly, none of the people who witnessed my father, family members or close friends, overdose called 911. Hopefully, for other families, witnesses do call for immediate assistance as such an act would save the life of a loved one. Someone’s mother, father, son or daughter can be afforded a second chance with the implementation of Narcan.

My heart breaks about Ms. Cuatt’s loss. Losing a child is tragic beyond measure and I wish that her son could have been saved either by an application of Narcan, a medication that safely reverses the potentially fatal side effects of an overdose of oxycodone, heroin and other opioids, or by appropriate treatment and after care.

We must strive with every notion to eradicate these situations. Education and prevention of substance abuse in all forms is by no means an easy task, but in the words of Frederick Douglass, “without struggle, there is no progress.”

Leon Donelson

Watertown

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