Pubdate: Wed, 02 Mar 2016
Source: Ithaca Times (NY)
Copyright: Ithaca Times 2016
Author: Jaime Cone


On Feb. 23, the night before Mayor Svante Myrick officially announced 
the city's new drug plan, there was a panel discussion on the history 
of municipal drug policy. Ithaca resident Herebeorht Howland-Bolton, 
26, surprised the audience of about 150 people gathered at 
Cinemapolis when he spoke up during the question-and-answer period. 
He told the audience he had overdosed just four hours earlier in his 
apartment on the Commons. His girlfriend, Janice, 20, who asked that 
her last name not be printed in this article, found him unresponsive 
on the floor and called 911.

Howland-Bolton has been struggling with heroin addiction for ten 
years. He said that he supports the proposal in the plan for a 
supervised drug injection site in Ithaca. Herebeorht and Janice took 
the time Friday morning to sit down for coffee at Waffle Frolic and 
answer a few of our questions about their experiences with Narcan, 
which reverses the effects of a heroin overdose, his perception of 
how drug culture in Ithaca is changing, and why he believes the new 
drug plan is a step in the right direction.

Ithaca Times: You were in the hospital just hours before the forum 
Tuesday night. How did you end up at the event?

Herebeorht Howland-Bolton: On the way to the hospital, essentially. 
My brother told me about it, and I told [hospital staff] I wanted to 
go, and they didn't see any problems with it.

IT: Janice, the other day you found Herb unconscious and called 911?

Janice: Yeah, I didn't know how to use Narcan. We had Narcan in our 
first aid kit, but by the time I found him I was too busy doing CPR 
to read the very vague instructions of how to use it. I was trying to 
figure out how to put it together, and it said intravenous so I 
didn't know if I was supposed to inject it, but then it also said 
subcutaneous, so I was trying to figure out what is the method of 
using this thing, so I just ended up telling the police to come 
because I couldn't figure it out.

HH-B: One second I was standing there, and the next I was on the 
floor. It was the first time I had used in a while, and I was on 
Suboxone. Being on Suboxone, what it means is that technically you 
shouldn't be able to get that high. You shouldn't be able to feel 
anything, which means whatever I shot up was incredibly potent. I'm 
pretty certain-no, I know-that it was Fentanyl. The ambulance had to 
come onto the Commons. It cost the taxpayers money and made my life 
incredibly embarrassing. It's not a good look. The neighbors don't 
think you're cool. Your mom isn't proud. And the thing is, it doesn't 
have to happen like that.

IT: How long have you been using heroin?

HH-B: Since I was 16, and I'm 26 now. Back when I started there were 
more drug dealers than there were users. I used to know the whole 
community of people who used, and now I'm amazed when someone dies 
and it's someone who was telling me years ago not to use.

IT: A big part of this plan is educational. Do you think that if 
someone had shown you how to use Narcan you would have been able to 
administer it in an emergency situation?

Janice: I would have had no problem using it, it's just that I'd 
never seen it done before, but the instructions on the box were 
incredibly vague.

HH-B: It's really complicated. Just providing the Narcan I could see 
not being the best thing, you would need to educate people how to use 
it. With basic education you can learn CPR, and CPR can keep a person 
alive for up to 45 minutes. Think about the amount of lives that can 
be saved with just that knowledge.

IT: How were you able to get the Narcan?

HH-B: I got it indirectly from the needle exchange, from a friend. 
The needle exchange-a lot of people go there. If you're going there, 
it's obvious you're going there for a reason, but once I'm inside the 
place I feel really comfortable. When I'm in active addiction it's 
one of the few places I feel safe. I feel comfortable there, which is 
really cool.

IT: After hearing about the new "Ithaca Plan," what aspects of it do 
you think would help addicts most?

HH-B: The supervised injection site. I've been kicked out of here 
[Waffle Frolic], and I don't remember why I got kicked out, but it 
might have been because I was using in the bathroom. You're going to 
go wherever you can to use. You can die if you overdose and you're in 
a locked bathroom.

IT: Some critics of the plan argue that addicts have to hit rock 
bottom and that an injection site would encourage people to keep 
using when they might have otherwise quit. What are your thoughts on that?

HH-B: I've hit rock bottom many, many times. I turned 21 in prison, 
and it's not like you can really get much lower than that. And I've 
gone to jail and rehab and slowly built myself up, and it was 
painful, but I did actually get somewhere in the end. I was able to 
get through.

IT: What are your thoughts on the need in Ithaca for a detox center?

HH-B: It's crazy that we don't have one. To get into a detox in 
Ithaca you have to call other cities' detoxes, leave within an hour's 
notice of them contacting you to get a bed, and the only other 
strategy you can use is to go to our hospital, and if they are 
worried about you harming yourself or someone else you can get a 
semi-treatment, like a half treatment detox. I've been through that 
three times.

IT: What is your opinion of drug court?

HH-B: It started out with good intentions. I failed out of drug 
court. Basically it's turned into the opposite of what it's supposed 
to be. An alternative to incarceration is what they call it, and my 
experience is I got incarcerated more times and ended up doing more 
time than I would have in the first place. I've been to misdemeanor 
drug court. I've been to felony drug court. I've been incarcerated 16 
times. I've been through a one-month rehab, a three-month rehab, and 
a 16-month rehab. I've pretty much run the whole gamut.

IT: What do you think is the biggest thing that addicts need most to recover?

HH-B: Just the support of people who will be there for them and not 
judge them. Most of the reason I'm doing really good right now is 
because of Janice. She's why I can sit here and be sober. I'm on 
Suboxone, but as you can see I'm not nodding out. Heroin doesn't take 
over our entire relationship; it's more something really annoying 
lurking at the edges.

Janice: I think that's something a lot of people don't realize about 
heroin addiction is that people who use heroin aren't separate from 
society. Of the people you talk to every day on a regular basis, a 
percentage of them are addicts and you wouldn't have any idea.

HH-B: Some days I get my dosage right, and it's wonderful and you 
wouldn't know I was on heroin. That's what people don't know. To them 
it's like you're either on heroin or treating it or off it. I have 
severe anxiety and depression, and it's been debilitating at certain 
points in my life. I missed 90 days of sixth grade because of it. 
That's not normal. That's where a lot of aspects of what would lead 
to my addiction later on started.

I've always wondered if in a perfect world, if everything was right, 
if it could be measured out and I got to choose the difference 
between giving myself 0.054 or 0.052 milligrams of heroin would I 
have actually been able to treat myself.

IT: If there was a supervised injection site in Ithaca do you think 
that drug addicts would use it?

HH-B: I know if the option was there I definitely would try it out, 
and that means if I would try it out, and if I didn't like it, then 
someone else would try it and like it. It would be just another option.

A year ago I took a drug that I thought was MDMA and it turned out to 
be Ketamine or PCP. There are drugs with similar side effects. 
Basically they make you hallucinate that monsters are coming at 
you-horrible things. I ended up trying to commit suicide by jumping 
into a gorge. It was 80 feet down, and I caught myself by grabbing 
onto a tree 10 feet from the ground. The first responders who found 
me thought that I was trying to climb the side of the quarry. 
Basically it was a situation that could have been prevented if there 
was someone there to supervise me while I was injecting the drug.

IT: How did it feel to speak up at the forum and get the response you did?

HH-B: It felt amazing. The number of people who showed me support and 
stuff, it made me feel a lot stronger than I did prior to that. It 
was a high point of maybe even the last few years of my life. It was 
very intense.

I felt that overall people were pretty positive towards me, and I 
think having that communal aspect of it in which people could talk 
more would be a great thing. There were definitely people in that 
room who, if they met me on the Internet, would have talked about me 
as a terrible, horrible person who should go to prison. Those people 
were in the room, and they didn't come up to me and say anything negative.

To be able to say, "Look, I am a living example of why change needs 
to happen," being able to say something like that in front of a ton 
of people and have them just act like it was OK to say it has 
essentially given me a whole lot of strength to feel like I can 
actually do something with my life.
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