Thursday, December 30, 2010

Addiction, continued

This is a complex disease. It is resistant to treatment. It is subject to relapse.

Dr. Phil McGraw on addition

More later. The South Kansas City Observer extends condolences to the family of Ken Gurley and to the South Patrol officer forced to shoot him dead the morning of December 29th

This post had its genesis in the sad shooting death of one Kenny Gurley yesterday morning. Mr. Gurley was shot by a Kansas City Missouri police officer when he did not comply with orders to drop a length of metal pipe, and lunged at the officer. Here's the newspaper article on the incident. I posted the above, but ran out of time to flesh out the thoughts behind these few words.

Mr. Gurley, 40, per the testimony of his grieving mother to the press, has struggled with meth addiction for several years. He was approaching about one year of sobriety from the meth during this time. (It's funny, a friend who is about to have her one year of sobriety from alcohol was telling me about how she'd noticed that a lot of people get a little funky around that one year mark...) Neighbors had noticed a man matching Mr. Gurley's description acting oddly during the early morning, running around in the 40 degree temps without a shirt, punching the air. One neighbor noticed Mr. Gurley and another man looking into the windows of houses in the neighborhood. When they battered down the door to the empty home on 111th Terrace, they called 911.

Now, if I lent you my scanner for an hour, you would notice that these prowler calls are pretty common, and the police take them seriously. If they respond to an address, and find an open door, they will "hold the air" and carefully investigate until they know that there is no one there who is a threat to them or others. So it is with this care that the officers approached the house on 111th Terrace when they noted the open door. It didn't take long before they came across Mr. Gurley and another man as they came out the front door. Mr. Gurley had a length of pipe in his hand. He was commanded to drop the pipe. He did not drop the pipe. Per the KCPD, he threatened the officer, and he was shot twice, fatally.

The reason why I started this post with the quote from Dr. Phil was to make a note of his difficult addiction. Like I said in response to comments in the initial post, the will has a lot to do with the compulsive behavior of addiction. Using is a choice, not using is a choice, stopping is a choice and starting back up is a choice. How the addict can be helped to make the choice to stop and stay stopped is something that is up for debate. Despite anything you may have heard, no treatment modality has a 100% effectiveness/no relapse rate.

You can hear it in the anguish of his mother(KSHB video here), wishing there had been another way, wishing he had gotten back in treatment, wishing he hadn't have used again. I am sure the police officer wished there had been another way, but he wanted to go home at the end of his shift. There was a threat to that, and he had to respond as he had been trained to that threat. His response will be evaluated. I hope the Monday morning quarterbacking will be kept to a minimum, the evaluation fair and balanced.

I was noting this crime, one of several shootings over the past few days in Kansas City, because of the sad aspect of Mr. Gurley's losing battle with addition. It was not meant to be a debate over the causes of addiction per se or the best way to treat them. It was with the sadness that Mr. Gurley made the decision to use meth on Wednesday morning. That decision caused his premature death. His mother is sad at the permanent loss of hope for her son. The officer is sad he had to take a life and may be anxious for what it means for his law enforcement career. I am sad because, well, no man is an island. Mr. Gurley's death, along with the death of Sujendra Amarasingham, and Ivan Miller in November, and 100 plus other homicide victims in our city, should make us all sad. Then it should make us all mad, and ready to take action.

That is all, just a sadness at the waste of life, and a wondering if we can develop several good therapies for helping someone make the decision to stop using mind altering substances and take on life straight and sober, life the good the bad and the ugly.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Oh yes. When we read a story like this, we have a reaction and then go on to the next one.

But really this story covers a multitude of issues, and the addiction one is the driver of all the others.

Not only that, but your close reading reminds me that thoughtfulness is the key.

I look forward to more, on this or any subject,
Ann T.

Bob G. said...

There are a myriad of treatment options available to help people like that today, as opposed to decades ago.

All the people have to do is AVAIL themselves of it.

Many times, they don't even take that first step.

DO we have the right to FORCE them in the name of public safety?
That's where it stops being a treatment issue and becomes a LEGAL issue.
And that can inhibit treatment just as well as never going to GET treatment at all.

A real catch-22.

Have a good weekend.

the observer said...

Ann T:
It would be interesting to know how much crime has drugs as a significant factor. This is why getting more people to face the world sober would be a good idea!

You have a great and safe New Year!

The Observer

the observer said...

Bob G:
This is one of the most significant issues in health care today, getting people to take care of themselves and follow instructions.

It's the balance of free will verses the good of all. We see it today in the mental health field as you can't force anyone into care.

If the government becomes purveyors of health care, we could see more sticks employed to make people comply.

Watch this issue, it's important!

The Observer

Stay safe out there--do you have any Kevlar to wear if you need to go out?

chuck said...

By now, after all many shootings by police of suspects with Bar B Q forks and knives etc. ya gotta believe that a guy who doesn't "put down the weapon" is serious about using it.

I have been in many violent situations in my life, and I always think, maybe because of the practice, that I would shoot the guy in the knee. Seriously, party is OVER. That is bad enough, and I gotta think a taser would be more appropriate, but, if your out there very day, dealing with pukes on drugs with criminal inent and a murderous bent, then you just might be shooting for dead center too.

His mom looks really sad, I am so sorry, as are we all are, I am sure for this bad turn of events.

Truth is, its chemicals in your body. Not your personality, or character, or anything else, just luck of draw. Its how YOUR particular body reacts to the drugs.

For example, I have done coke in my life any number of times. I have very little of what you, in the classic sense would call 'character'. It had some effect on me, I was NEVER adicted and did the stuff off and on for years. Sometimes, once a year, sometimes 20 or 30 times a year and sometimes years would go by, as it has now, and I would not do it at all.

I am not trying to be cool here, I am just saying that I have seen guys whom I admired a whole hell of a lot, with the initiative, get up an go, morals, ehtics you name it, all those things we like to call good, go down in a flash because of one experience with coke or meth.

My brother died 5 years ago of a meth overdose. So I get it.

I was just lucky, the shit never meant anything to me special, kinda like German Chocalate cake, I love the stuff, but only like it every now and then.

Its not a choice, its just the breaks.

So, don't ever do it, and you won't get hooked.

Easy to say.


the observer said...


thanks for a terrific comment! This is such a rich topic, I wouldn't be surprised that I return to it sometime in this new year.

I think that personal chemistry does play a role in addiction. Again, why I like parts of Dr. Phil's quote--complex, resistant and relapse. I don't think it is part of any conspiracy to keep the treatment industry in business! (See first comment to 12/29 post)

I am the grandchild of an alcoholic. I experimented with small amounts of ETOH as a young adult, but found it an unpleasant experience. In 1985, in conjunction with church membership, I chose to abstain. I also experimented with pot, but when, in 1980, research results showed that pot was bad for memory, I gave it up. My attention and memory are bad enough, I reasoned. I do not even think about stimulants, because I do think I would like them. My brain chemistry meets my will! And I say no.

BTW, Keep up the good work on TKC, keeping the Mexican honest! Your views on crime are right on, but some don't want to hear it.

The Observer

chuck said...

Thanks. :)