Like millions of Americans, George Floyd He lived with the agony of drug addiction.
He and his girlfriend, Courtney Ross, He became addicted to opioids four years ago after they were prescribed chronic pain. She said that when they ran out of prescriptions, they switched to illegal drug use. They tried to get rid of, then failed. They tried again, but couldn’t stop for long.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the United States, Floyd, the father of two young daughters, is starting to use it again: He lost his job as a nightclub security guard due to the quarantine shutdown, and was hospitalized for several days after an overdose, which he discovered was infected. Coronavirus. The day he died, his neck was trapped under the knee of a former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin Later toxicology reports showed that for more than nine minutes, he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his regimen.
“We have become addicted and have tried so hard to get rid of this addiction many times,” Ross said crying Thursday during his testimony at Chauvin’s trial about Floyd’s death.
Floyd’s death helped launch a global civil rights movement against racial injustice and police violence. His death trial could likewise shape the way Americans view drug addiction at a time when blacks continue to be significantly deprived of medical treatment compared to white Americans even as they experience disproportionately high rates of fatal opioid overdoses.
Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, To convince the jury that the drug is – not Chauvin’s knee that narrows to Floyd’s neck as he cries “I can not breathe” While handcuffed on the floor – contributed to the death of Floyd.
Prosecutors, family members, and medical experts said Floyd’s history of addiction did not explain how he died. Chauvin, who is white, is accused of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man.
“George was walking, talking, laughing and breathing well before Derek Chauvin carried his knee to George’s neck,” Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, the Floyd family’s lawyer, said in a statement Thursday morning. Opioid self-medication and abuse are being dealt with with dignity, respect, support, and not brutality. “
Scott Nolen, director of the Addiction and Health Equality Program at the Open Society Institute – Baltimore, which works to reduce drug addiction. He said that class racism makes it so so that people of color who mistakenly use drugs are seen as “runaways.”
Andre Johnson, chief executive of the Detroit Recovery Program, a drug addiction support program, said people are relapsing due to insufficient resources.
Johnson said Chauvin’s defense “really sheds light on how people of color, black people, are treated when they have an addiction. What they fail to do is treat George Floyd as a complete person.” “The fact that he was drug abuse was not the cause of his death. He died because he was a big black man and a white man who couldn’t appreciate his life.”
Opioids have made addiction a ‘white drug problem’
The idea of treating drug addiction as a medical condition rather than a moral failure became more widespread in the 2000s based on emerging research, and as prescription opioid pain relievers proliferated, thousands of whites began to die from overdoses.
Unlike previous drug crises that primarily harmed low-income Americans and people of color, lawmakers and the media often portrayed victims of opioid drug addiction as normal white Americans who fell prey to a highly addictive substance.
“One of the first things you notice is that when drug addiction, especially opioid addiction, was seen as a white drug problem, people suddenly became very interested in the origin of your drug addiction, and they were interested in the stories of origin that made you not do so.” Eco N. YankaHe is an expert in criminal law and a professor at Cardoso Law School in New York City. “Those origin stories were never available to black people, especially black urbanites. Nobody cared because of your drug addiction.”
In subsequent years, many Republican and Democratic lawmakers began adopting legal marijuana, reducing penalties for low-level drug offenders and Drug addiction treatment Instead of criminal charges. The political movement represented an important departure from the Federal Drug Policy in the Past This often resulted in black men serving long sentences for nonviolent cocaine offenses, while white criminals who used cocaine received a relatively light prison sentence.
“There is no question whether crack was a disease of a white child that would have ended up in treatment, but it ended up jailing everyone,” said Robert Stutman, the special agent in charge of the New York Drug Enforcement Administration during this period. The War of the Eighties Against Cocaine.
Of the more than 840,000 people who have died since 1999 from a drug overdose, more than 70% in 2019 took an opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the opioid crisis largely claimed white lives, death rates from opioid overdoses have skyrocketed in the black community in recent years, according to federal data.
Medical and legal experts said Ross, White, and Floyd’s addiction journey can help Americans see black drug users in an empathetic light.
“They are ordinary drug users, they are normal people who struggle with drug use,” said Yanka, the law professor. “Black people end up using drugs for the same reasons that whites do.”
Blacks denied the lifesaving anti-addiction drugs
Many Americans now understand better that people with drug addiction cannot easily stop using drugs.
Sheila B. Alliance is a nonprofit organization based in New York.
However, research shows that blacks are often denied the same life-saving medical treatment as white Americans to treat opioid addiction. One study found Black patients were 77% less likely to receive buprenorphine, a drug that suppresses the craving for opioids.
Instead, methadone is often prescribed to black Americans, which requires most patients to come to a medical office every day to get the drug, and is a huge drawback for low-income Americans, including many people of color, who do not work or have flexible hours. Access to transportation.
“The way we’re giving people is really horrible,” Vakharia said. “Imagine if we had someone do it for blood pressure or diabetes medication.”
For Americans without health insurance, both forms of treatment are often out of reach. The Americans are of Hispanic, Asian and black descent They are more likely to be uninsured Of white Americans.
“The effect of incarceration, arrests and marginalization, brought on by racially and punitive drug laws, increases physical suffering and makes it difficult to obtain treatment and humane treatment. These situations give authorization to Floyd’s defense team,” said Deborah Agus, executive director of the Behavioral Health Leadership Institute in Baltimore , Which focuses on ensuring that vulnerable population groups have access to better treatment than addiction, “to try to portray him as worthless and” sick “because he suffered from addiction.”
The data suggests that Americans use heroin and fentanyl at the same rate, but the increase in opioid-related mortality rates among people of color is likely the result of disproportionate access to treatment for these groups compared to white Americans, said Dr. Pooja Lagicity, a researcher in the University of Michigan Health Services. His research showed contrast in the treatment of buprenorphine.
Both the prosecution and defense took caution while discussing Floyd’s addiction. Medical and legal experts said such an approach would have been unimaginable two decades ago.
Nelson on Thursday began his interrogation with Ross by showing sympathy: “I’m sorry to hear your struggles with opioid addiction,” he began. “Thank you for sharing that with the jury.”
Meanwhile, the prosecution’s push for Ross to discuss how she and Floyd struggled with drugs rather than downplaying substance abuse was also unusual.
Several medical and legal experts said that in the past, drug use was cited for insulting witnesses, suspects, and dead by police, especially when they were black.
“I don’t think a defense attorney in the 1980s or 1990s would have said, ‘I’m sorry you were struggling with heroin or cocaine or crack’ in those times when it was considered a drug within the city,” Yankah, of Cardozo’s law.
“It seems likely that it is in something.”
Floyd died on Memorial Day 2020 after police responded to a 911 call that allegedly used a fake $ 20 bill at a convenience store. Three other former police officers who responded to the call are facing charges with Floyd’s death.
Chauvin defended his actions to a witness after the unresponsive body of Floyd was transported in an ambulance.
Chauvin is heard saying in a video: “We had to control this guy because he’s such a big guy. It looks like he’s probably into something.”
On the other hand, Chauvin is troubled In the past, including 18 complaints brought against him in his 19 years as a Minneapolis police officer, the criminal trial would not be the focus of the criminal trial to avoid influencing the jury against him.
In her testimony, Ross, 45, described Floyd as a cheerful and sweet man who offered to pray with her the first time they met, when she was visiting her son’s father at a homeless shelter where Floyd worked as a security guard.
She said he was energetic and had no trouble breathing before his confrontation with Chauvin.
If Chauvin and other officers suspected Floyd was high, they should have taken the matter more seriously when he said, Keith Humphries, a professor of behavioral science at Stanford University in California and a former member of George W. Bush’s White House advisory committee on drug-free societies. He cannot breathe because using opioids can slow his breathing.
Humphreys said, “Even if he’s an addict, he doesn’t deserve to be killed. It shows the low value of life for people with drug problems.” “The police detain millions of drunk people every year without this happening.”