US Heroin Epidemic Demands a Compassionate Sophisticated Response. US Rural Communities at Breaking Point…

Crestone, Saguache County, Northern San Luis Valley, Colorado, USA

Oct. 30, 2016

I don’t have an answer, but I thought I should at least mention that, besides a lot of gorgeous natural beauty, this is also going on locally…  The documentaries and article excerpts may be helpful in grasping the seriousness of the issue, why there’s certain drugs to better never even try out at all, and some ideas on different approaches tried elsewhere.

It’s a mess…

Even Colorado’s rural communities, including the remote San Luis Valley (SLV), with mostly ranchers and small farms, no longer escape the heroin epidemic.

A sign on a garden store in Alamosa, Colorado:


Unless otherwise noted, photos by © Michaël Van Broekhoven

  • The Valley Courier, Alamosa/Southern Colorado’s SLV  (Oct. 20, 2016):

90 percent of people in jail are detoxing from heroin.”  (constituting half a percent of Alamosa County’s population!)


In the past few years the menace has boomed even in the éven móre remote parts of this magnificent region of Colorado, “even” right here in Crestone, Colorado…

  • This month’s (Oct. 2016) Crestone Eagle: “[…] Sheriff Warwick is concerned with the increased use of drugs, particularly meth and heroin, in the Crestone/Baca community. […]”


The intimidation of going on record, by name, visible to the public, for snitching on a dealer or narco-trafficker… is the main obstacle to have law enforcement crack down on the local availability, it seems.  Who wants to take it up against the heroin cartels?  Might as well declare war on the United States, if you know what I mean.  Or publicly announce you’re taking on the mob.  (I mean… come on…)   Law enforcement knows most rumors, has a pretty clear idea of who the main dealers and users are.  They don’t sign any affidavits themselves either (as the citizens they also are), so… that tells me something.   ;-/

9aedecfa6d34c22901023834d0d2f111And then there’s the perspective that it’s primarily a medical issue, and that hard-liner crackdowns actually doesn’t work very well.

Unless you toss all civil and human rights out of the window and go psycho-fascist like Singapore (death penalty for possession of most drugs), or unleash death squads, as the Philippines are condoning and encouraging right now.   No, thank you.  Count me out.  Modern society is already way too harsh to begin with, I find.

Word on the street told me that there’s at least 2 (-3) dealers in Crestone and there might be over 50 frequent users, plus “in-betweens”, either véry functional and respectful and keeping up a cleaned-up appearance, or who’ve actually gone through the temporary hell of coming clean and are doing better.  Many of those aren’t even trying to get off; they’re just hooked and blinded.   That’s not even accounting for the meth-heads.  (Pretty disturbing numbers, I’d say, for a picturesque rural mountain community of about 1200 people…).  (PS:  I can neither deny nor confirm street rumors, of course, but they included presumed sources from within that world.) ;-/

Many urban areas have been even harder hit.  I think of some parts of Vancouver, BC even 20 years ago… The Tenderloin in SF,… and so forth.  Because the crisis has reached medical ‘epidemic’ proportions now, urban areas are increasingly better equipped to deal with the challenges.

This one from Denver: @


Sadly, it’s increasingly ‘everywhere’.

The last few years have seen an exponential explosion, not visible in this map of DRUG OVERDOSE DEATHS, which only reaches till 2014:  @ NY Times, (Jan. 19, 2016 How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America:

drugoverdoses“[…] Deaths from drug overdoses have jumped in nearly every county across the United States, driven largely by an explosion in addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin.  […] Nationally, opioids were involved in more than 61 percent of deaths from overdoses in 2014. Deaths from heroin overdoses have more than tripled since 2010 and are double the rate of deaths from cocaine. […]”

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in the US, surpassing car accidents and gunshot wounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

congress-heroin-epidemic-sourceThat’s an overdose death in the US every 12 minutes, on average.

 – —  — —- ———- —- — — –

Generally… I used to hold to the attitude of “to each his own“, but once you make something as disturbing as heroin ‘pretty much impossible to look the other way’, such as happened last year when I was offered to “try it”, in the center of this tiny mountain village, of all places…, then its “on my radar”, so to speak.   A bit like… you can claim nuclear reactors are safe… until they detonate, if you know what I mean.   Unfortunate, but no way around it.  It changed my perception of about a dozen people I actually liked at first…  Wish that had never happened… (‘Cause they ARE actually decent people… Just… messed up enough to try stuff that if you read up on it, even just a little bit, I don’t understand how it can keep its appeal… Must be in a lot of pain.  Something…)   ;-/

The worst were the few trying to convince me that it affected “no one besides themselves”.

Do they have any clue how much tax money is being burnt on emergency services, inmate services, services to disrupted families, related education troubles, and related law enforcement? [Obviously they didn’t…]  Not to mention how related news is simply shocking and painful to watch???

A Tweet from Ohio Police:




Even if you were a true meditating yogi (not the new age mind-numbing bullshit version known to also roam these Crestone venues on occasion…), supposedly “removed from society”, let’s say somewhere higher up on the slopes of these majestic Sangre de Cristo mountains, in a cave perhaps (purring alongside a mountain lion… -hehe), you  would actually for sure feel something terribly troubling…  As an open heart cannot remain unaffected by the suffering of those around him/her.   Like any other action, even if it escapes your immediate awareness, truly, the energy of this menace actually AFFECTS EVERYONE.   Not to mention how the vibe of a place completely shifts when you find used syringes…  [Sigh…]

Last year’s pusher wasn’t my first encounter, though.  One time, way back in 1994, while hitch-hiking from New Mexico to San Francisco, I caught a ride with an addict truck driver.  I was just 20; it was an eye-opener.  Keeping my cool, but (if truth be known) totally scared, I helped him prepare the syringes (holding the spoon as he would heat it and fill the syringes):  Three:  One for his wife (who came out of the sleep compartment, groggy, and disappeared back there after her shot),… and – thank goodness – two for him. (I was wondering for a moment…)  “Don’ worry. I’ve been doing this for twenty years,” he said.  Then onward we went in that 18-wheeler at 90 mph through the California dessert and Central Valley…     He sure was “perfectly functional”, but very noticeably, also, not quite all-there, hanging on the steering wheel.  He said he gave me a ride ’cause he just wanted someone to talk to’.  So we chatted.  Really nice guy actually.  That was an unforgettable part of the experience:  This heroin addict was a really good guy.  (It’s been that way for ALL of those I’ve met afflicted with this major challenge.)  Many hours later, he used his CB radio to line me up a connecting ride all the way into The City.

 I used to get it offered on 16th Street in San Francisco’s Mission district every now and then in 1995, when I was new to town.  Still just about as cheap as 20 years ago, from what I hear.  “Heroine highway,” some referred to that part of 16th Street back then.  The Mission remains an area I like to visit when I happen to be in San Fran., though that one, particularly Valencia (where I volunteered at Artist’s Television Access (ATA)) has majorly gentrified since.   “No, thank you“, I always said politely.  The dealers (and addicted hookers, too) all quickly ‘got it’:  I wasn’t interested.  No way to sway me.  They let me be.

My EARLIEST “exposure” to this issue is when I asked if there were any areas of town to avoid when I was visiting Zurich, Switzerland in 1993.  Used to be a bit of a habit when exploring a new area… I had this attitude, of, “This is MY PLANET, too.  You can’t tell me where not to go!”   Well… Don’t ask for advice if you’re not willing to follow it, I suppose:   “Needle Park” was the consensus of the handful of people I asked.  “Bad place. Don’t go there!”   …Okay… So I went to have a peek…

Something about that Zurich scene, that actually holds some relevance to the crisis facing North America and elsewhere at the moment:

!!!-> See  @

Excerpt (photo cropped away for space):


Fearless or dangerously reckless, “I don’t know”, but certainly a bit of “a character flaw”, I went to check it out, camera in hand.   [photos – TBA when I find them…]

Eventually, a couple hotheads cornered me, followed by over a dozen others, and pushed a syringe in my face, vertically, the needle not poking me, just visible… “Are you narc ?!!  What are you doing here?!  Want some of thís!!?”  ‘Just a tourist,’ I countered, honestly.   “Tourists don’t come here!!(Teenage anarchist Belgian tourists do…! – hehe)   Well… Could have ended badly, but luckily two social workers – never knew their identities / wish I could thank them directly-, who were busy with needle exchange (a program to help prevent the spread of diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis, etc. by providing individual users with clean needles) intervened and helped me to leave in safety.

The roll of 35 mm still film remained undeveloped for a long time.  Eventually I burned the negatives and prints of those shots on which people could be easily recognized. (Yeah…  Different era… Compare that to these days when most people won’t even ask if it’s okay to photograph you with their tied-in-to-the-surveillance-apparatus f*****g smart phones…  ;-/   Bunch of mindless/disrespectful morons…  But anyhow…)

On a side-note, another place that has taken a different approach than blind criminalizing crackdowns is Portugal.  I’m sharing this article here in the tiny hope that it may inspire someone to seek uniquely effective ways for responding to this health crisis:

https-news-vice-comarticleungass-portugal-what-happened-after-decriminalization-drugs-weed-to-heroinLook into it!

—– —— —–

  • Two recent documentaries worth your time:

People are suffering.  It’s véry understandable for many to freak out and demand ‘action’ (by “the government”, whatever that still means…) in response, but – please – don’t demonize the people who are, if you REALLY get into it, having an extremely hard time.  I post these documentaries (from where many more are linked, as well) because I think they could increase people’s compassion for the afflicted on the one hand, and help many understand how serious this issue is, on the other:



“Every 5 minutes, a baby is born in the US, already dependent on Opioids…”

There’s many more.  Just search the videos available.

+ Some elementary basics about heroin  @

——- ——– ——–

Some Closing Words:

This is just a small attempt to bring a little bit more awareness to this issue.  I share one sentiment with clear & presumed nutcases as well as addicts, and that is that I insist on firm boundaries to keep private spaces private, a constitutional value that I have come to appreciate local and state law enforcement, for better or for worse, abide by (for the most part, to their credit).  Upon reflection, it seems ‘Law Enforcement’ is in a véry difficult spot on this matter.  Thus far, my impression is that they are extremely reasonable, approachable, as well as appropriately compassionate. 

As for myself, I aim to hold no hostility towards anyone affected by this health crisis, but only when it’s kept out of my space.  I do actually pass along all relevant/pertinent-seeming information to law enforcement, as I hope everyone else does as well.  Dealers/Users who who offer it to non-users cannot count on my sympathy.

——- ——– ——–

To close, just a couple somewhat related songs that popped into my head:

  • ‘Heroin’, by the Dutch band Doe Maar, with its chorus “Heroin is a curse!” (in Dutch):

  • And these:


  • Origins of the Heroin Epidemic

If you wondered where that epidemic came from so suddenly…  Consider that it is a WEAPON, too.  (I’ll leave it at thát, and leave you with “another bread crumb”…)

In Afghanistan, where, according to the United Nations … 93% of heroin originates, the production of opium, from which heroine is derived, surged from a minimal 180 tons to a monumental 8,200 in the first five years of U.S. occupation


Some people try to make it funny:

And while he brings up some good info as well,

It isn’t funny.

——– ——– ——— ——— ———- ——–

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2 Responses to US Heroin Epidemic Demands a Compassionate Sophisticated Response. US Rural Communities at Breaking Point…

  1. Pingback: Florida Lake County Sheriff’s Dept. Gives Heroine Dealers Notice Prior to Planned Busts? | Allegedly Apparent Blog

  2. Pingback: Canyon de Chelly, Hopi & Navajo Nations,… (w/ Ramble Mix) | Allegedly Apparent Blog

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