Inmate Dies In Custody

October 10th, 2015

Macomb County Inmate

This post is not about the alleged misconduct or negligence of the Macomb County Jail in the death of 32 year-old inmate, David Stojcevski, last June.  The media handles that. We’ll know more on that subject as the investigation into David’s death unfolds. It is horrific and tragic; neither of which can be disputed in the court of humanity.

This post is also not about the current and past drug habits (prescribed or not) of the victim. The truth in this matter may prove important to the investigation, but not to this post.

The horrors of this tragedy highlight an opportunity for a discussion about addiction. Addiction is complex and misunderstood. Having worked in the field of addiction for nearly a decade, I lean heavily toward a position of empathy when it comes to matters of addiction. My empathy comes from a place of knowledge and experience.

Nicotine withdrawal is not likely to cause life-threatening symptoms, as was the case with David Stojcevski, but nicotine withdrawal symptoms (irritability, anxiety, lack of focus, depressed mood) are very real. Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s physical/emotional response to a changing chemical environment.

Again, Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s physical/emotional response to a changing chemical environment. The video of the inmate illustrates a human-being withdrawing from a drug(s); in this case, reportedly doctor-prescribed (“acute withdrawal from chronic benzodiazepine, methadone and opiate medications.”) It is clear that David developed a chemical dependency on a substance, and that the absence of that substance was problematic and deadly. Prescribed or not, it IS what withdrawal looks like. That is addiction. Addiction is not about seeking the next high; it is generally about avoiding pain……..and in the worst cases, avoiding death. It is about survival.

I am trying to introduce opinions about a controversial subject cautiously and responsibly. My objective is to paint a picture of an addict from the beginning; before addiction. Addicts progress to stereotypes; they don’t start there. The video is chilling and disturbing, but the video represents the very situation that addicts seek to escape, which generally leads to very high-risk behaviors.

Drug addicts (alcoholics, crack addicts, pill poppers) steal, lie and cheat not always just to get to their next “high,” but to avoid the very circumstances that led to this man’s death. I don’t believe anybody experiments with drug use with the worst-case scenario in mind.

Sure, some recreational drug users also lie, steal and cheat. But in these cases it is not to satisfy a physical or chemical need, but rather to satisfy a recreational desire. Very different case.

David Stojcevski was not faking withdrawal symptoms to get drugs; THAT WE KNOW. His body was dependent on a chemical. Without that chemical (and without medical intervention) his body could not sustain life.

Withdrawal symptoms threaten survival. And survival instinct will trump morality or the law any day of the week. Hence, addicts steal, lie and cheat despite obvious and devastating consequences.

Addicts seem like bad people because addiction leads to repeated irrational, irresponsible, illogical, illegal and unsafe behavior; all in an effort to survive. Addiction doesn’t favor the poor, undereducated or underprivileged-it does not discriminate.

Logic says “Get clean or you will lose everything!” But logic and addiction cannot co-exist when your body is battling for mere survival. I believe it is impossible to rationally consider the consequences of continued drug use when faced with impending death. Could you think or act rationally while experiencing paranoia, insomnia and hallucinations? Addiction is the ultimate manipulator! It doesn’t allow for concerns about being arrested or losing your family.

I’m not proposing that addiction is an excuse for unconscionable behavior in every case. For some, addiction will just magnify the already negative stamp a jerk has on society, even when sober. But I do think the issues associated with addiction would be better managed in a society that, on a whole, had a better understanding of it. I hope this post can generate some thoughts about how to accomplish that.


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