DECADES OF ADDICTION KILLED MY BOY

(This Op-Ed by yours truly, appears in Florida Today, 20 October 2019, under title “I Got The News Families of Addicts Fear.”)

 

In 1972, a flower-child, divorced mother of a 12-year-old named Bennett introduced her son to marijuana. Pot use had been common in the household, so she said to Bennett, “Here. Try this. You don’t have to do this behind my back.”

So he did. Not only that, he found her secret stash in a closet and brought a pocketful to school, which turned out as a lucrative endeavor, hoisting his status to a seventh-grade drug dealer.

Not only did his mother ignorantly and wrongfully teach him that drugs were harmless, the subliminal message was worse, as he wondered why the one person who is supposed to protect her child from wrongdoing, actually encouraged it. So he wondered: Why doesn’t my mom love me?

Fast forward to age 18. After several episodes of runaway behavior, minor crimes and shifting residences with his single father, Bennett began showing signs of mental problems. A prominent psychiatrist diagnosed him as “manic-depressive,” which entitled Bennett to Social Security disability income from the government. Bennett spent three months in a treatment center under care of the doctor. When released, Bennett was prescribed Haldol and Lithium, powerful drugs meant to balance bipolar disorder.

The results were catastrophic. Bennett turned into a quivering, drooling zombie, with loss of control of body functions. Basically, the psychiatrist prescribed powerful drugs, of all things, to a drug addict, while earning his fees from the government. The doctor said he’d have to take those drugs for life.

Eventually, Bennett ran away again and went on into a drug-infested lifestyle while still collecting money from Uncle Sam for 40 years. Repeated efforts to help by family members never helped. He could not hold a job and ultimately joined the ranks of America’s homeless and mentally ill populations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes roughly 70,000 deaths a year to drug overdoses. Some 553,742 people experienced homelessness at least one day in 2017 while 19 million generally experience “housing insecurity.”

The CDC estimates that 50% of homeless people suffer from addiction. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 20% to 25% of homeless people suffer from severe mental illness. In a separate report, 17.3% of mentally ill prison inmates were homeless prior to arrest.

The crisis is clear: The land of prosperity, the free and brave, turns its back on those who are clearly mentally ill, drug dependent and imprisoned, giving them no hope at all other than more drugs and/or jail cells.

What is wrong with us?

We open our gates to third-world populations providing all the benefits of American citizens, while turning our backs on so many bona fide Americans, including war veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, relegated to finding bushes for shelter and thievery for bread.

Basically harmless to others, Bennett found ways to survive while living in a derelict used car lot, pandering for nickels and dimes. Thanks to government disability, he still maintained his flow of drugs from doctors who overlooked his motives.

In his last doctor’s visit in January, unkempt and needy, Bennett asked and received refills for Xanax and OxyContin. The next morning he was found dead in the back seat of a derelict SUV with a needle filed with Fentanyl in his arm and two empty vials of Xanax and OxyContin.

At age 58, he had struggled enough. The government system gave him money for 40 years, which only helped to maintain his habits. But he had no life.

The next morning, a plainclothes cop wearing a badge on his belt knocked on the door of a house in Suntree, Florida, and asked the man, “Do you know someone named Bennett Frank?”

“Why?” the man asked. “Is he dead?”

“Yes.”

That man was a former police detective who had notified family members of deaths hundreds of times. This time, that family member was me. Bennett was my son.

There are no lobbyists or committees for homelessness or the mentally ill.

Out of sight …

The full story of Bennett Frank’s life and death, and what we can do, is outlined in Frank’s new book “A Boy Who Mattered.”

Marshall Frank is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade County, author and frequent contributor. Visit marshallfrank.com.        

7 Responses to DECADES OF ADDICTION KILLED MY BOY

  1. Olive Detering October 20, 2019 at 10:02 am #

    A very sad story. Addiction is a very difficult problem to cure. I lost a 32 year old great grandson from alcohol and opiodes.

  2. Eileen October 20, 2019 at 10:44 am #

    So very sad; and yes, our tax dollars spent on illegal aliens need to be spent on our own American citizens who need help.

  3. Katie October 20, 2019 at 12:06 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this tragic story. As a parent of someone struggling with addiction to THC, I am doing everything I can to prevent this from being my story. I am shocked by the shameless way the politics of cannabis are leading to the message that a drug, that clearly has abuse potential and does serve as a gateway drug for susceptible individuals, is harmless and even beneficial. Even sugar, a vice most of us have, would be more dangerous if we were being inundated with messages that it is a miracle cure for all that ails us, and that the government has been trying to hide this miracle substance from us. Worse still,THC is being sold in doses 10s of folds times more potent than what your son’s mother handed him. Moderation of this drug is being discouraged, not encouraged. And the bizarrely desperate need this industry has to hide the fact that THC itself, a lipid that is not easy vaporize completely, may actually be a major cause of the respiratory illnesses sweeping the country is the last straw for me. It’s maddening. How many victims of the opioid crisis started with weed? I imagine the answer is over 99%. Spread your message everywhere Mr. Frank. Run for office. We need people like you out there.

  4. Charles Pierce October 20, 2019 at 8:43 pm #

    This will sound cynical and it is meant to be exactly that way. Prior to the passage of the 18th amendment and the Volstead Act, the government did not care what you put in your body. It was your problem and not societies. We need to return to that philosophy and the problem will become less of a sociality problem and more of an individual problem. I am the Adult Child of an Alcoholic and a co-dependent mother. I was an abuser of tobacco every way that was possible. I have not touched tobacco in 40 years base upon my need to stop the addiction. We have made everything the responsibility of the Government and the Citizens have lost the ability to make decisions for themselves. It must stop and stop quickly.

  5. Helen R.Frigo October 21, 2019 at 3:37 pm #

    Thank you Charles Pierce. And Marshall, we truly are sorry for the death of your son. But children are their parents’ responsibility, and blaming marijuana and “illegal” immigrants, when drunk driving and smoking have caused so many more deaths, just seems wrong. Not being able to read by the 3rd grade is also a strong indication you’ll end up in jail, too, whereas teachers are some of our lowest paid employees. And someone mentioned sugar? Have you seen the size of many children nowadays? Their inability to go anywhere w/o a bottle of pop or a straw in their mouths? Have you seen the length of the “snack” aisle in any grocery store, the displays at the front offering quick sugar highs? Now vaping delivers more nicotine than a pack of cigarettes? And can be easily hidden from parents, and the odor doesn’t give you away? And “Obamacare” DOES pay for mental health programs, doesn’t it? Ohio DID accept federal $$ to expand Medicaid, and has seen improvements. FL STILL refuses to expand Medicaid. Famous trumpeter Louis Armstrong was arrested in 1930 for smoking a joint, and spent 9 days in jail. Or rather taxpayers spent money to arrest and incarcerate him. He believed marijuana was better than whiskey, and used it all his life.
    (It didn’t make you violent, he pointed out) He was productive, and paid taxes, and made friends for the U.S all over the world. Now combat veterans have written that it is the only drug they’ve tried, that helps them to sleep at night. Alcohol and nicotine have been legal a long time. And please look up the history of “the New World”, before you start calling the descendants of those who were already here, “illegal immigrants”. And the number of our attacks/invasions, etc., on them.

  6. Fred Ingley October 23, 2019 at 10:28 pm #

    i agree with Charles Pierce and Marshall that drug addiction is horrible. However, THE WAR ON DRUGS IS WORST. It, just like Prohibition has enriched the low life who profit from illegal substances. Prior to those items mentioned by Charles Pierce, we did have both drug and alcohol problems within our society however nowhere near the scale which we have today. I believe evidence strongly points toward showing that once either or both were illegal and then the laws prohibiting them were strongly enforced that the problem(s) mushroomed. It’s unfortunate that the main ones who profited from such laws were/are both those who are heavily involved in marketing/selling what is illegal, but even more unfortunately, many of the law enforcement agencies involved in prosecuting the related violators. Not even addressing the related corruption, the law enforcement agencies profit via larger budgets which result in larger man power with more and more power up the chain of command. Only which I could come up with a recommendation as to how to reduce the problem. Am afraid of that it’s too late “Now that the cat’s out of the bag.) Would suggest that Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s (LEAP) philosophy of decriminalizing and instead, drug abuse assistance be emphasized be strongly examined.

  7. Helen R. Frigo October 25, 2019 at 10:53 am #

    Yet the WAR ON Marijuana continues. Yesterday’s “Police Reports” in the PBP had the St. Lucie Co. sheriff arresting a man with 63 grams of “weed”-is that 2.2 oz? How much will we pay for our Justice system to prosecute him? Even as a friend found a tiny vaping device in her grandson’s sock drawer? Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma are laughing all the way to their Swiss banks. Today’s Palm Beach Post lists nursing/healthcare students expelled for using Medical marijuana, in states where it is allowed. The schools are afraid their Federal funding will be affected. Why doesn’t President Trump simply take marijana off the list of “Most dangerous drugs”? Now- deceased trumpeter Louis Armstrong was put in jail for 9 days for smoking a “joint” in 1930! He explained it was “better than whiskey” and didn’t result in violence and hurt to others, as he often witnessed from the abuse of alcohol. Yet here we are, still breaking down doors, confiscating property, and locking up more people than China, Russia, Cuba, etc. As ever-younger children have access to more and more dangerous drugs.