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When Shall We Win The War Against Opiate Addiction?

While waiting for her laundry to dry, Jaimie Cahill fell asleep on a couch in the basement. She had woken up very early in the morning to go for an early morning shift at a nearby hotel. Ideally, she did not get time to sleep in the afternoon, as she was busy barbecuing with family. It was 9 at night, 14 June 2015. Jaimie Cahill’s younger brother, Joseph Cahill, 27, left the house but was to return soon. Nevertheless, time passed and nothing was heard from him. The fact that he did not say where he was going made Jaimie more worried.

Joseph’s behavior had been strange in the last few days, and although they were small things; they added up. He was starting to hang out with addicts who were taking Suboxone and were still in the detox phase. At some point, he even fell asleep in his car with the engine running and hit a guardrail. Jaimie failed to understand all these behavior changes until one day she found a burnt spoon. It was not until she woke up later that night, at around 1:15 a.m. that she found her brother’s body on the bathroom floor, stiff and blue, with a syringe and another burnt spoon by its side.

When the police officers called in, she handed them a name “Amanda”, and a phone number, which she believed was “Amanda’s”. According to Jaimie, Amanda was a drug addict, just like her (Jaimie’s) brother, Joseph. While going through his phone, she realized Amanda had been making calls to her brother recently. Was it because of the drug issues? Jaimie did not know. But drawing from the facts, it can be assumed that Joseph became addicted to opiates, and this changed his behavior before eventually killing him. Ideally, Joseph could not be helped in anyway because he hardly shared his situation with his sister or anyone, and upon his death, Jaimie did not know what to tell the police. “Talk to her (Amanda); she knows,” says Jaimie.

Police tracked Amanda Burgess, 27, and she is now facing charges for having sold Joseph Cahill the $40 worth of the fentanyl, which purportedly killed him. Based on research, fentanyl is a synthetic opiate, which can be between thirty and fifty times as powerful as heroin and dealers usually use it to cut or in place of heroin. In 2015, 399 people died of drug overdoses in the United States. Of this, 365 overdosed on opiates, and according to the office of the chief medical examiner, 261 persons had fentanyl in their systems. With thirty-six instances still pending toxicology, the numbers are expected to go up.

Though the Cahill family does not believe drug dealers should face stringent charges in instances of fatal overdoses as a rule, to them the reaction of Amanda Burgess to Joseph’s overdose warrants severe punishment. Burgess ought to have alerted someone immediately to enable medics administer narcan (a medication that reverses the effects of opiate overdoses) to save Joseph’s life, says the Cahill family. Although most opiate addicts are old enough to distinguish the right and wrong, society should come forth to help them overcome this. The whole thing should not be left to law enforcement alone, as it affects the very fabric of our society.

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