NEW HAVEN,Conn. (WTNH)– Nobody is exempt from the devastating health consequences of opioid addiction. In communities of color, education about the danger is key.
Charles Bolling is a survivor.
“I was up in the street at a very early age,” said Bolling.
A product of one of Hartford’s toughest neighborhoods, Bolling’s mother and father were both drug abusers.
As a teenager, his desire to live the fast life led him to alcohol, marijuana and later the highly addictive opioid, Percocet.
“What I realized early on was I liked the way it felt because I didn’t have to feel any of my problems,” said Bolling.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Brett Rayford says Charles’ story is hardly unique, adding that drugs played a role in the lives of most people sitting in Connecticut prison cells right now.
“It’s ripping families apart,” said Rayford.
For years, heroin destroyed lives and devastated urban communities. Society’s response was to arrest addicts instead of getting them into treatment.
“So that criminal justice response to drug addiction was intense, but now that people are seeing it as a medical issue and there are treatment centers opening across Connecticut and across the nation, you see that the inmate population is dropping, and laws because there’s a greater understanding of what addiction is and how it should be responded to,” said Rayford.
On this day in early November, Dr. Rayford and Charles Bolling were conducting a workshop to a class at the New Haven Adult Education Center.
The students there are young and older and from a variety of ethnic groups, all working to achieve their slice of the American dream.
The point there is to let people know just how quickly it is for people, to become addicted to Fentanyl or any other opioid.
Fentanyl, according to Rayford, has become one of the most popular drugs on the street. It’s relatively cheap and incredibly powerful, in fact 50 times more powerful than heroin.
“The drug is deadly. It’s the most dangerous drug on the street, but interestingly enough when people are addicted to it, they don’t move away from things that are dangerous. They move towards it because they want that intense high,” said Rayford.
And Bolling talked about when his life hit rock bottom, when he was popping 80 Percocet pills every day.
“I remember going to the doctor and the doctor putting his finger on my neck and asking him what he’s doing, and him saying ‘I’m wondering how you’re still alive,’ ” said Bolling.
Now almost five years clean, after that final stint in jail, he’s turning his attention to helping others. He’s even started a non-profit group, called Kids Affected By Addiction, for young people in need of mentor-ship.
“We believe that if we can catch these kids before when they are coming out of the program, get some guys who have been to prison who have been up in the street and change their life, teach these kids how to change there life. We believe that is when real change can happen,” said Bolling.