Derek Gentile: Area problems a microcosm of nationwide epidemic


PITTSFIELD — I was at a meeting on Tuesday night. The group is called D.O.P.E., Which stands for Discussing Our Personal Experiences.

There were about 30 people there, and the discussion centered around the opioid epidemic in Berkshire County.

There were not just individuals who struggle with drugs, but their families, friends, town officials and a police officer.

I know, I know, we've written, heck, I've written about this endlessly. But I wish the people who email me complaining about the fact that they hear about this issue too much would come to meetings like this.

In fact, one of the people at the meeting pointed out that the people at meetings like D.O.P.E. are sort of the converted.

"What we need," he said, "is to get the people who don't understand what's happening to be here."

He was correct. Which is why I pound away at this.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a drug bust in Sheffield. Someone posted the story on Facebook with the tagline, "What has happened to our wonderful little town?"

The answer is, the same thing that's happening to every little town, and every bigger town and every city in the country.

At the meeting on Tuesday, a man admitted that he was frustrated. How, he asked, can he ensure that his son and grandson doesn't attend these kinds of meetings?

Well, it's not really about how you bring up your kids. It's not about disciplining them properly. This is chemical imbalance in the human brain. Unlike what some people believe, moral weakness doesn't really play a part.

I know a 72-year-old woman who lives in the eastern part of the state. Very religious. Never smoked, drank or took drugs over the course of her life.

She took opioids for a hip injury she incurred falling at her house. When the pain didn't diminish, she began to explore other options. Including heroin. Yes, that's true. A 72-year-old junkie.

I understand how crazy that sounds. But I promise you, no one in D.O.P.E. would scoff. They understand why it happened and how it happened.

And while she's OK now, who knows if she will relapse? It's a prospect that terrifies her. It terrifies her kids, too.

My final message is to have a little understanding when you find out a friend or relative is struggling with this. Have some patience. People are dying and it's not because they're weak or stupid. It's because they have a disease that is overtaking them.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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