Staten Island’s Heroin Addiction Problem
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Staten Island’s Heroin Addiction Problem


As the opiate addiction epidemic in America continues to grow, The New York Times sheds some light on one of their state’s own problem areas: Staten Island. Apparently, this known suburban borough is home to more than Working Girl and Mob Wives and has tragically become a hot bed for heroin addiction.

It Always Goes Back to Opiates

It started how it always does, with prescription drugs. For a time, Staten Island was run amok with pill pushers—opiate-based narcotics like Roxicodone, Vicodin and Percocet were so readily available for purchase that even a local ice cream truck sold snow cones with a side of painkillers. There were the requisite doctor scandals, too: in 2012, Staten Island physician Dr. Felix Lanting pled guilty to distributing Oxycodone—the same year the band White Trash Clan rapped that Staten Island was “painkiller paradise.”

And of course where there are pills, eventually there is heroin.

Calling Bullshit

While the article paints the picture of weekend boredom being the cause, I find that to be a hard pill to swallow when we’re talking about a borough of NYC. Is it really just a pill problem gone awry or is it some kind of New York-poleon complex—being far enough away from Manhattan to feel inferior but close enough have access to their drugs?

Shame might be a large contributor to Staten Island’s drug addiction spreading like wildfire. As even those who aren’t terribly familiar with recovery know, admitting there’s a problem is the first step to solving it. Lying by omission in the obituaries—which seems to be the thing to do—may save face for the family in the short term but it sends the message that nothing is wrong and there isn’t a problem. People with addicted children and friends end up feeling isolated and scared, not knowing where to turn to for help. At the risk of stating the obvious, if no one is talking about the problem, you can’t spread awareness about it.

Parents, understandably, are slow to admit even to themselves that their kids are doing heroin. As Doug Collier, a special agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration in New Jersey said last year, “When I talk to parents, they are in denial. The three most dangerous words are, ‘Not my kid.’”

But a few people are helping to change that. Candice Crupi didn’t sugar coat her son’s recent cause of death in the Staten Island Advance. The obituary read: “Johnathan Crupi, 21, had been overwhelmed by addiction. He died at home of a heroin overdose.” As she told the paper, “Everybody hides from telling the truth and I don’t think it’s healthy. Addiction is a disease and it’s a horrible, horrible thing. He was a beautiful kid and a wonderful kid until drugs came.’’

The Kids Aren’t All Right

Denial isn’t, of course, limited to the parents. While I completely understand how someone who is already addicted to opiates might transition to shooting heroin in a moment of weak desperation, I can’t—for the life of me—understand how kids are seeing their peers drop dead around them, week after week, and still making the choice to try Oxycontin or smoke smack. Is it that they, too, tell themselves, “Not me”?

I know I loved to turn my body into a weekend science experiment as much as the next guy, but vast droves of my peers weren’t ODing. Even coke didn’t seem to have much of an immediate consequence, which is why I picked it up in the first place. Similarly, I started smoking cigarettes knowing that they could kill me someday but since my friends and I weren’t dropping dead of lung cancer at that moment, there didn’t seem to be any immediate problem with lighting up. Then again, perhaps it’s hypocritical for me to say these Staten Island kids are living in denial when I was, too.

Of course this isn’t a Staten Island problem. This is an American problem. Staten Island is only a symptom.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.