There’s a silent drug war and
it’s exploding all over America. It’s the worst kind of war in
all kinds of ways: Mostly unheralded and unnoted, it’s also getting
Even worse, it’s the kind of war where people volunteer to die
— often alone and in the dark, like modern-day kamikazes.
But they don’t scream “Banzai” to dull their fright.
As often as not, they don’t make a sound when they go.
Let’s consider the casualties for a moment.
In figures released in 2002 for the year ending December 31,
2000, emergency-room (ER) admissions for crystal meth and other
forms of amphetamine were up 51 percent in Los Angeles, 53 percent
in Seattle, 76 percent in Phoenix.
It’s the same virtually across the board and across the country.
Heroin mentions were up 31 percent in Buffalo, 35 percent in
Boston, 50 percent in New Orleans, 58 percent in Miami.
Even prescription drugs are getting into the act: Vicodin, for
Due to the pull of pop-culture (Eminem has rapped about it, pictured
it on CD covers, and even has a Vicodin pill tattooed on his
shoulder; Courtney Love and Matthew Perry only beat their addictions
through stints in rehab), this previously little-known prescription
painkiller is going through the roof of the drug-crisis emergency-room
admission list charts, jumping 108 percent nationally from 1998
There are bright spots amid the gloom, too, but on balance, the
numbers reveal the most deadly-serious growth area in the entire
American drug culture.
That’s why we’ve developed this booklet: Because a simple familiarity
with crisis assessment and intervention techniques can mean the
difference between life and death for untold numbers of people
each year. For others, it can be the difference between overcoming
a moment of panic and coming apart at the seams. For still others,
it can be the first step in a process that extends beyond an
immediate crisis to real recovery.
It isn’t glamorous and it often isn’t easy. But in the lives
of the people it touches, it’s as important as the other, headline-grabbing,
“official” war on drugs, the endless struggle to stop
the flow of drugs at the border and on the street.
In the chapters that follow, we’ll do our best to make your introduction
to drug crisis management manageable. We’ll provide a general
orientation to crisis-intervention strategies and an overview
of specific techniques for helping people in emergencies. We’ll
discuss how to assess a crisis and how to perform basic life-support
We’ll also review drugs that figure into today’s drug scene and
consider, in as neat and orderly and logical a fashion as possible,
approaches to resolving problems that are usually anything but
neat and orderly and logical.
Still, we want to emphasize that this information is intended
to supplement, rather than to substitute for, actual hands-on
training. Classroom training is indispensable for the necessary
skill-building (particularly CPR and other life-support techniques),
which should form the core of any true introduction to drug crisis
Building those skills and cultivating the sensitivity necessary
to real effectiveness in a crisis — takes more time than the
time it takes to read a booklet.
But it’s time well spent. Because even though we regard substance
abuse as a social ill, the people who suffer because of abuse
They’re our brothers and sisters — and they deserve the best,
most careful care we can give them.