Mother of overdose victim says “drug policy is the reason people are dying”

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In March, Louise Vincent was forced to live every parent’s worst nightmare. Her daughter Selena died after a drug overdose. She was 19.

Yet despite Vincent’s grief, it’s not heroin that she blames for Selena’s death.

“Drug policy is really what’s killing people. That’s what would have saved my daughter,” Vincent told CNN.

Vincent, 39, a native of Greensboro, North Carolina, knows well the everyday horror of drug addiction. She used heroin herself in her 20s, though she’s been clean for more than a decade.

Since then, she’s worked as a specialist in “harm reduction,” an approach to treating addicts and supporting their recovery. It can be broadly classified, Vincent says, as “working with people who are actively using and providing them with strategies and choices.”

It’s an approach that she insists “changed her life.” And she believes it’s the key to tackling America’s heroin epidemic.

For addicts, “any kind of reaching a goal is success,” Vincent insisted.

“Getting clean is not the only option or is the only outcome that’s desirable. We have to work for any small change, any positive change,” she added.

Drug overdoses, driven largely by prescription drug overdoses, have surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the United States, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Countering overdoses

A key strategy in the fight against heroin-related deaths, Vincent says, is the use of the drug naloxone, often referred to by the brand name Narcan. Naloxone blocks the effects of an opioid overdose, in which a person’s breathing may become shallow or stop, and is known for its seemingly miraculous ability to counter those effects within minutes.

“Evidence says that when you put naloxone in a community you can have a 50% reversal rate,” said Vincent.

“So we know that we can reverse overdoses. And if we give heroin users naloxone and we train them in overdose reversal, then at least we’re giving them some tools. We can give parents naloxone.”

The way society treats drug users also needs to change in order to prevent overdoses and keep those struggling with addiction out of jail, Vincent said.

“I work with people whose parents have left them, they’re unable to get jobs, they’re unable to work because of stigma,” she added.

“Drug users have been told for so long that they’re terrible, that they can’t do anything, that they’re powerless and they’re unable to make choices. If they’re using, they might as well accept jails, institutions and death and not even fight for their lives.”

That’s where Vincent comes in. After everything she’s been through, she says she’s determined not to give up on those who are battling drug addiction.

“I’m telling them they can make changes, they can do these things, and then they do them, and it’s amazing,” she said.

6 comments

  • Johnny Needle

    Drug addict may not be a choice but choosing to use drugs is. At some point a person must make the decision to use weather that is their first drink of alcohol, drag of a cigarette, puff of a joint, snort of coke, pop a pill or inject a dose of heroin. Many people end up having trouble controlling their alcohol intake, use of Marijuana or their need for a cigarette.
    I have never seen anything good from use or addiction of heroin. I have heard of people dying from the drug my whole life. I have read about famous musicians struggles with heroin addiction (like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page) and I have seen movies like Trainspotting. Nothing about heroin applies to me or makes me want to try it.

    America seems to have this one size fits all approach to crime. Prison (murder, tax fraud, drug dealing, drug possession, repeat drunk driving, stealing, sexual assault,) just lock them up for a set amount of time and then let them go free back into society without any form of treatment. Everyday that a new addict is arrested and sent to prison another one is let back out. And as long as they continue to be addicts they will continue to use and offend again, fail a drug test and be sent back to prison at tax payer expense.
    First they could decriminalize all drug offenses so they do not end up in prison.
    Second they could just let addicts die which is pretty much what they are doing if they are not offering help or treatment.
    Third they could put all drug offenders in a treatment and education program. But that would make the most sense with the lowest cost and we all know that is not how things are done in our country. So just continue to thing the same as they have been done before. Drug addicts really aren’t adding anything to benefit society so who cares if they die?
    It isn’t the Governments responsibility to protect it’s citizens from harm is it?

    • Z

      You say it’s not the government’s responsibility to deal with drugs/addicts, yet everything you listed would have heavy involvement of government.

      As your rant continued, it became clear that you don’t know what your talking about.

      You can’t just decriminalize all drug offenses. That’s absolutely asinine. The criminal focus should be on hardcore drugs like cocaine, meth, and heroin. The government’s war on drugs has been a total failure and waste of taxpayers money. Yet they continue to champion it with sensationalized stories of drug bust stories where the “criminal” was in possession of weed.

      Also, no treatment, policy, or program will stop an addict. That isn’t how they work. Two people I knew very well were addicts, one with drugs and another with alcohol. Addiction is a personality thing and the only thing that stops them is if they run out of their vice, die, or finally decide to be sober.

      No policy would have saved this women’s daughter. The only thing that could have saved her was her mother. She obviously failed as a parent and now to deflect her guilt, she has to point the finger at something else. One finger pointing out, three pointed back.

  • Frank B

    Personal choices killed this girl. Easy way to prevent this- don’t do drugs. This is what can happen if you do. We as a society should not be stuck paying the bill to treat people who do not want to be treated. There are treatment facilities out there for people who want to help themselves. The war on drugs has not been a failure. Think how much worse it would be if they didn’t keep the stuff they confiscate off the streets. It is sad that people are so pathetic and weak minded that they get hooked on this stuff to begin with. It all starts with marijuana. Most addicts don’t wake up and say hey why don’t I try some heroine today. They start with marijuana and then they branch out to other drugs. I support marijuana use for legit medical reasons only but I don’t understand the states that have just given up and made it legal. With that ill conceived logic why don’t we decriminalize carjackings or prostitution or drunk driving since people keep doing those activities?

  • walloffthenorthside

    Perhaps being a junkie made your daughter a junkie since parents are supposed to set the example. How about society stop blaming everything else for their problems and take responsibility for their own actions. I’m sure fox 6 will delete my comment because they love placing blame on government agencies, police etc..

  • bronco

    drug addiction is not a disease doing drugs is a choice they call it disease so they can make money off of it they dont put a gun to your head to do drugs stop blaming the doctors

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