(By Eric E. Sterling, Guest Blogger)
The New York Times reports on August 29, 2012 on the life and death of DeAndre McCullough in Baltimore on August 1, 2012 at age 35 of an apparent heroin overdose.
DeAndre’s youth had been chronicled in the non-fiction book and HBO mini-series, The Corner, A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood (New York, Broadway Books, 1997), by David Simon and Edward Burns. DeAndre’s parents, both Baltimore residents addicted to drugs are central figures in the book and miniseries. The book and mini-series were sort of a scholarly prelude by Simon and Burns to the HBO smash hit series, The Wire, about contemporary urban life, policing,urban politics, drug trafficking, drug use in Baltimore.
The Times reports that DeAndre, addicted to drugs as a teenager, was able to get treatment and begin a life of recovery, obtain a high school G.E.D. (graduate equivalency diploma), and attend community college. He had employment, and had roles in HBO’s The Corner and The Wire. But he had great success as a drug treatment counselor in Baltimore at Mountain Manor, a few miles west of the corners where he grew up. But after several years, he resumed his drug use, lost his job, and was in and out of treatment and in and out of various jobs for the past seven years.
Why does someone who seems to have overcome a childhood and life of risk factors succumb? Is it changed brain chemistry, the “lure” of the high of opiates, an inadequate, stunted self-love, the “environment of the neighborhood,” bad choice of friends, lack of education, lack of good jobs — some or all of the above? Or was it badly manufactured drugs, poor education about drug use, inadequate harm reduction, continued stigmatization of addicts and those in recovery? I don’t think The Times story tells us enough to answer, but no doubt there will be many who will insist that Mr. McCullough’s death supports one of their talking points.
Perhaps before International Drug Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, further details of Mr. McCullough’s life and death might be published that might be the honest basis for drawing some lessons from his tragic death.