Filed under: JUNKe life
I used to work for a needle exchange program; in fact I ran the program. At that time (late ’80s) needle exchanges were a pretty new concept and there weren’t all that many official programs running. One of the best things about our program was our inclusion of active drug users as helpers. Active users would do shifts at the office, they’d do lots of outreach on the streets and in the hotels and bars, and they’d accompany needle exchange workers as assistants when we’ve do home visits. And they’d do a lot of shooting up right in our office.
One of the best things was the help they’d offer as program advisers – providing specialized “insider info” which made the program relevant to the needs of the people it was offering services to. They would provide ideas and advice which I wouldn’t have thought of in a million years (at least not at that time since I was pretty wet-behind-the-ears when it came to injection drug using and all that’s involved).
I really clicked with on user assistance in particular. He was especially committed to helping out the program, so much so that he really was like a full-time worker. He’d show up at the office (and it was a cool office – detached from the main building, upstairs in sort of a back loft) every morning between 9-10 am. Initially I thought this regular attendance was purely his enthusiasm for the job, but as it turned out he usually had at least one level of covert reasoning for the things he’d do. His covert reason for showing up bright and early was so that he could use the office to do his morning fix.
When he first started coming around he was getting a fairly large morphine script. One of the conditions of his script was that he had to pick up his dose every day from a local pharmacy. His doctor was unwilling to give him a full week or month’s worth of his prescription as one lump quantity. The reasoning being that he’d manage it better if he was just doled out a day’s worth at a time. So he’d drop by the pharmacy (which was just around the corner), get given his 12 pills for the day, and then come up to the office to fix. I was cool with him fixing at the office. He’d grab himself some clean supplies from the office supply cabinet, and just sit himself down on the sofa, and use the coffee table to cook up on.
After he’d finished his business, we’d usually chat awhile, maybe he’d prepare a few kits of safe supplies to hand out on street patrols, or do some office typing, and then he’d stay and hold down the fort if I had to leave to attend a meeting or go do a house call exchange with people who didn’t want to meet with anybody but me. Or he might fill his backpack with a bunch of exchange supplies and hit the street himself. At least that’s what he said he was going off to do. In reality he’d usually just head off to do some dope deals. He was actually quite a hustler, often selling a few of his morphines, maybe grab a half a gram of coke, and do some shop lifting or some other type of scam or dope deal. He was always wheeling and dealing and by the end of the day he’d often drop by again with more dope than he’d left with, or enough money to be able to make a fairly good sized purchase, as far as daily personal consumption goes. He’d be well set up for the night ahead, I guess you could say.
Eventually he started offering me his morning wash. Since I was essentially opiate naive at the time his wash was a substantial hit for me. Usually it was what was left over from at least a couple of 25 mg pink Statex morphine pills. If I said “sure, thanks” then he’d add some water, re-cook, pull it up into a brand new needle, and then bring it over to me at my desk. I’d definitely get a good bang from it. In all likelihood, I’d get as good a buzz as he’d gotten in the first place.
He didn’t offer me his wash everyday, but after awhile, I was certainly hoping he would. Eventually things changed with him and his doctor and he was able to get his morning dose given to him the day before. I imagine he’d given the doc some sob story about how he was sick in the mornings and therefore it was a big bummer to have to drag himself to the drug store in order to get well. And by this time he was living in one of the downtown hotels, one with a peeler bar in the basement. He’d worked his way into the dope scene associated around the strip club, and its adjacent scene within the hotel. As it turned out, I had to drive past the hotel on my way to work so it made sense to stop by and pick him up and we’d both get to the office for 9:30 am.
And so, like clockwork, he’d do his morning fix ready when I showed up, and I’d do the wash. But not only the wash because he’d usually have quite an assortment of various pills that he’d gathered in his wheeling and dealing. Often hundreds and hundreds of them, which he’d bought in bulk, to sell in smaller quantities at the bar and on the street. By this time, he was having people drop by the office throughout the day and he’d be dealing out of it. All in all, it meant more dope for me because he might throw a 10 mg blue Statex morphine pill in with the wash. Or just ask me if I’d rather do some pill instead of the wash. Did he really have to ask? Of course I’d rather do the pill. And I did.
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