From Painkillers to Heroin: A Cops Perspective On An American Tragedy


Comfortably numb

I may be a little late on this one but this topic bothers me.

A lot.

About five years ago, while assigned as a violent crimes detective in our agency, it began.

People in our city started dying.

Not from gang violence, gunshots, knives or suicide.

They were dying from heroin.

The body’s were piling up.

I don’t mean that as hyperbole or shock value. They were literally, at times, running out of room at the medical examiner’s office with so many.

Why were so many people dying?

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We have always had heroin addicts.

Now they were dying at an alarming rate. It wouldn’t take long before we realized that the heroin being sold on our streets was some of the most potent ever seen in this country.

It didn’t make sense.

Drug dealers, instilling the purest form of entrepreneurship there is, like profits. Big, ridiculous profits! Why in the world would they be supplying such a pure product?

It just wasn’t adding up.

It would appear that the suppliers and sellers were having some sort of cathartic doubling down on their past business model. It’s as if they were feeling guilty for gouging and making addicts all these years from their insidious product.

Or was it something else?

Just cut this thing out me!

My 19 year old son had done that dumb thing that young dumb people do and had signed up to run a marathon (this is me trying to be funny, please runners, no hate mail).

He would stay the night with me and I would get him to the starting line the following morning.

He and and my other kids went to bed early. I decided to stay up for a bit. Not because I wasn’t tired or ready for bed but because I sensed an old friend was coming for a visit.

You see, this old friend first showed up about a year before.

This friend I’m referring to is a gall bladder attack.

I was hoping that the first incident was some sort of one time thing and that it would just go away on its own.

I know you tough guys may be laughing at me right now but I have never felt agony like this before or since.

A doctor visit would confirm the obvious.

The doctor asked me what I wanted to do. Without hesitation I told him to “cut this thing out of me!”


The surgery was scheduled for a few weeks out. During that time, waiting for the surgery, I walked around as if I could step on a land mine or be caught in an ambush from another attack.

The surgery couldn’t come soon enough.

The doctor who performed the surgery was very frank with me when I asked him about any follow up visits after the procedure.

He looked directly into my eyes and said, with the slightest smile, “you’re not going to like me very much after this”.

And he was right! I hated his guts (no pun intended).

The post op pain was almost as bad as the attacks themselves.

It was a good thing he had prescribed me a healthy supply of the good stuff.

Pain killers.


The rate at which we were responding (and continue to respond) to these calls was beginning to catch peoples attention.

It would have been sooner if it were not for her ugly step sister Spice that distracted everyone. Thank God that terrible synthetic drug didn’t last long.

It just seemed so senseless.

Practically everyday, and much worse in other parts of the country, someone would die from a heroin overdose.

It wasn’t until a few famous actors started dropping that the collective consciousness of our society began to take notice.

We would soon learn that it wasn’t just the purity of the heroin that was killing its users but what some of the batches were being cut with.

It was discovered that a common cutting agent was a drug called Fentanyl, another synthetic opioid 100’s of times more powerful than morphine.

Why would you add something this powerful to a drug that was already the most potent drug out there?

What was driving this insanity?

Ladies and gentleman, let me introduce you to the biggest drug cartel on planet Earth…


That’s right. Big Ole Fat U.S. Pharmaceutical!

Take the pain

After the outpatient surgery, my wife drove me home and I slept the rest of the day away in a post op bliss. While I slept, she went and had my 30 day prescription of pain medication filled.

With arrogant bravado I told her that I wouldn’t be needing them.

This lasted up until about 1:00 Am.

At that time I was suddenly awoken by a flood of pain that was unbearable. I asked (begged) her to get me the good stuff.

She retrieved the bottle and so began my blissful journey into a fog of numbness.

With no pain.

Two weeks went by and I slowly started to feel normal. This return to normalcy should have also marked the end of my need for pain medication.

It did not.

The mind is very powerful.

My brain had me convinced that taking the pain meds was a mere precaution in case the pain returned. And to be honest, pain meds made me feel good by not letting me feel anything.

Funny how that works.

They say that true empathy occurs when you can put yourself in someone’s shoes and understand the burden they carry.

After taking my last pill, only then could I honestly understand the plight of those who become addicted to pain medication.

The pieces to the puzzle were starting to become crystal clear.

Big Pharma, with the help of many doctors who were more than willing to over prescribe them, had turned millions of good people into helpless addicts.

Once the truth came out and they had made their dime, both had drastically scaled back the volume of pills they would sell and to whom.

This would have catastrophic results.

Free market society and heroin death 101

The initial consequence of the massive scaling back of prescribed pain medication resulted in normal people committing crime and doing anything else to get their pill.

Enter the heroin marketing team.

They sat back and waited for the right time to execute their genius campaign.

It worked something like this;

They knew that if they offered a product that was similar to synthetic opioids, the profits would be substantial. They had one major problem. The addicts that they were targeting had built up a huge tolerance.

This was no problem said the heroin marketing team. We will give them a product that satisfies their tolerance.

And it didn’t matter if it killed them. The fresh pool of customers for their deadly product was practically endless.

Oh and lets not forget. Heroin was now much cheaper than trying to score illegal pills off the street.

A band-aid to a sucking chest wound

This crisis has gotten so bad that our agency, like many others, has begun training and issuing officers Narcan to administer to overdose victims who are non-responsive (for lay people, this means they are very close to buying the farm).

One of my officers saved a life just last week with this drug that immediately counters the effect of an opioid overdose. 

At first I was skeptical of my officers having an additional role as paramedic. That skepticism quickly faded when lives started being saved.

It is now a common occurrence for my officers to be dispatched to complaints of an overdose victim who is non-responsive.

If this doesn’t ring the bell for you then nothing will.

Sadly, many addicts are aware of the dangers but don’t care. Some even seek out the rumored “kill batches” because their tolerance has grown so high.

Even worse, those who are given Narcan will commonly lash out when they snap out of their almost comatose state.

Why you ask?

Because the officer or medic has just completely reversed the effects of the opioid on the brain, bringing them back to normal.

The human animal is a strange creature indeed..

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If you or someone you know is trapped in the hell that is opioid addiction, please reach out for help NOW. This decision can literally be the difference between someone living or dying.

You can find other ORIGINAL articles like this one and more at The Salty Sarge Facebook Page.

1 Comment

  1. I feel your pain…. almost literally, except in my case it was Kidney Stones. It was so bad that it took a morphine drip to get me to stop screaming…..And now I go nowhere w/o a few pain pills and also anti-nausea pills just in case.

    The question though is what to do differently? I used the pain pills when I needed them and then I stopped. I assume you did the same although in your case it wasn’t pleasant. But would you have rather experienced the pain? Or used a lesser pain killer? Or are you saying they should have given you fewer pills? How do you know ahead of time the exact number needed? Pain is experienced differently by different people.

    As a fellow cop (and Sgt 🙂 I’ve also made more than my fair share of overtime going to overdose deaths, and I acknowledge that it has gotten worse, (and you obviously understand the blessing and curse that is Narcan…) but the vast majority of people use pain-killers responsibly and then carry on with their lives grateful for the relief that the drugs gave them (I know I was!)

    What about those that truly need that relief that only opioides provide? Do we punish them/us because a small percentage of those strange human animals can’t or won’t act in their own best interest?

    It’s an age old question: Do we pass laws that assume we are all adults or ones that assume we are all children about to walk into traffic and the Nanny State is the only thing that can save us….?

    Enjoy your columns immensely please keep up the good work! 🙂

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