The Ely Times

Although addiction is all across the nation, there are various methods of treatment available. But here in Ely, there are no local treatment programs, day treatment or residential.  But for some, who have been in trouble with the law, there is a local program, the Drug Court Treatment Program, that can last from 14-18 months.  

The Drug Court program has been in operation in White Pine County since, 2005. District Court Judges Steve L. Dobrescu and Gary D. Fairman preside over Drug Court.  

Dobrescu was very instrumental in starting the program here in White Pine. Several hundred participants have successfully graduated from the program through the years. 

In lieu of traditional justice system case processing that would include incarceration, drug court programs keep individuals in treatment long enough for it to work, while supervising them closely. 

The program costs the drug participant $35 a week, which covers the court process, including drug testing, and other requirements.  

Each person is held accountable by the Drug Court Judge for meeting their obligations to the court, society, themselves and their families.  

A roundtable with several people who are currently going through the Drug Court Program, sat down with The Ely Times. All names are being withheld due to confidentiality. It is a harsh reality that living in a small town does not preclude us from addiction. 

The majority of the room was filled with men, most young in age ranges from 24 – 32. For some, the program was a repeat, but for many it was their first time. A program that last 18 months. 

When asked if they were shocked by the 5 million pills that were prescribed in White Pine County during the 7-year time frame from 2006-2012, many replied “no.”   

Asked if anyone started with a opioid addiction before anything else?  Half the room raised their hand.  Asked if they had a medical issue when first prescribed opioids?  One person said they had a version of an elbow injury.  

“The doctor started me off on vicodin 5mg ones to help, and the next time I went and see the doctor as follow-up it was vicodin 10’s, and then the doctor wanted to prescribe me something heavier, and I stopped him there.  

“Right out the gate, I was being prescribed 5 and 10’s, 6 times a day.  It got to the point where you can only take so many of those until your stomach starts bothering you, but you want to take them because you’re still in pain.”   

When this person finally was cut off after eight months he began doing meth, then heroin.

It was clear looking around the room and listening to the discussoin, addiction has no discrimination.  And, the stereotype that weak people use drugs, is very opposite.  Many people will have gone through more than most can imagine.

When asked if anyone’s opioid use converted to heroin? Many  answered yes, replying “Heroin is cheaper and stronger.”

Several talked about how they stole from their families, stores and wherever they could to pay for that next fix. One man commented, “I would steal $120 a day to pay for my fix.”   Some would resort to selling their opioid prescriptions.  

Street value of a OxyContin or hydrocodone is about $30 a pill. Vicodin’s were cheaper at $5 a pill. But, when you are prescribed 280 pills at $30 a pill that’s a lot of money,” one man said. “I was selling my Vicodins for $5 a pill, that was a $950 profit.”   Opioids were described as being medical heroin.  

 And there are several different ways you can consume an opioid besides swallowing the pill. Smoking, snorting, some explaining how these methods hit a lot quicker. 

Opioid prescriptions run out, and heroin becomes easily available on the street. A hit can cost $5-8, which is the equivalent of smoking a whole opioid.  

 With heroin you wake up you need it everyday. “You couldn’t take care of yourself until you had that hit.

“I would have a gram, and I would smoke the whole gram until I nodded out. Woke up with foil on the floor, cigarette burning your clothes.” 

Asked if heroin is more addictive than opioids? “It’s all the same…heroin is stronger. 

And surprisingly there was a lot of laughter, when reminiscing on past stories.  

“I have a tattoo that says, ‘I hate heroin, because I love it so much.’ I hate it, and it’s taken everything from me multiple times.”  

Asked if that’s a reminder for him, and he answered, “Yes, it’s mind over matter.”

For some, the drug court program was the last resort, and for some, they had already tried several different residential programs. It was repeated several times that going to prison and doing time was easier than the Drug Court Program. But for most, they said it has saved their lives, it has given them a new hope on life.  Many have great paying jobs, have their family support again, and can sustain a more normal life. 

One woman in the group was an athlete in high school, never experimented with drugs until she graduated high school. “My parents kept me busy, but they never really talked to me about drugs. Once I graduated and I was out, it was on.” 

And for some, they felt bad for what they may have put their families through, some used with their family members such as parents, siblings, and other relatives.  

One woman said, “Some people in your life will keep you sick so they can continue to control you.” 

The Drug Court Program gives the participants a chance to reflect on themselves, and what they can do to make their lives better.  Strict curfews are in place, and no one in the program is allowed to be around felons, or other known drug users while in the phases of the program. 

Judge Fairman said, “Most of the people who come into this program have lost their homes, their families, driver licenses, jobs and vehicles.”  

When asked why several went into the program? “I asked to do it, my brother is in prison, I have friends in prison, how many bullets can I dodge before I get hit with one?”

The program requires the participants to hold a job, and for one man, at age 29, this was the first time in his life he has held a job.  

Being in the program and facing daily life challenges is something that each participant faces each day.  Triggers, enablers, and persecutors.  Most explained how walking into a local casino, or even a fast food drive thru where they may have previously been able to purchase a drug of choice is becoming less difficult to deal with.  

And, now sobriety is the biggest thing for most.  

“Staying sober was harder than getting sober, but you look at the world very differently. I wouldn’t trade any of my worst days today, for my best days then. I wanted to be a human being again, and I couldn’t do that,”  one man said.