Opiates: A Potential Death Sentence For Both
Humans and Dolphins
By Annie Bryie
Drug Addiction Treatment:
Two dolphins, Shadow and Chelmers,
died after ingesting buprenorphine, a drug often used to help opiate
addicts detox from heroin or other opiate pain medications. The dolphins are two of the many animals at
Connyland, a zoo/park in Switzerland. According to media articles, it is believed that individuals
attending a rave party, hosted at the zoo, gave the buprenorphine to the dolphins. The rave party drew a
crowd of over a thousand. Although not all rave parties involve drug use, rave parties frequently
include a culture of substance use, particularly drugs that may enhance or alter one’s thoughts and perceptions.
Reports indicate that at some point during the rave party, buprenorphine was introduced to the dolphins’ tank.
Dolphins, in part because they are mammals living under water, must maintain some level of consciousness to breath.
Opiate drugs, such as buprenorphine, can lead to enough sedation that the animals do not breathe regularly.
Within days of the party, both Shadow and Chelmers had died. Medical assessments completed following their deaths found
Buprenorphine in their urine. Connyland had denied any wrong doing and has suggested that the deaths of the dolphins may
be related to the acts of animal activists, rather than anything done by partygoers.
But the deaths of Shadow and Chelmers only tell part of the story. The bigger picture is the effect that opiate drugs are
having on our society and your youth. Opiate addiction has become a growing problem in the United States, as well as many other countries.
Heroin appears to be making a come-back and prescription pain medication, much of which contains opiates,
seems to be everywhere. Teens and young adults are using heroin at alarming rates as the stigma of IV drug use appears to be waning.
Pain medications are either diverted to the street or taken from the medicine cabinets of friends and family.
Many of those for whom pain medication is prescribed become addicted to that medication.
Crime rates often reflect the desperation of those trying to either get opiates and other drugs or get the money to buy them.
The effects of opiate use include tiredness and being less alert. With higher doses, people slip into unconsciousness and even die.
Although marine mammals may be more sensitive to the effects of opiate drugs, with enough of the substances,
the end result is the same – death.
The hope is that the deaths of Shadow and Chelmers will inspire others to try to do something about this problem.
The solution often seems to be incarceration, which does little to improve either the lives of those who are addicted or
the society in which they live. Aside from those who commit the most heinous crimes, most drug addicted people
will eventually be released from jail or prison. Returning to drug use is a common outcome.
Instead of warehousing those who are addicted, there must be other solutions.
This article does not argue that people should not be held accountable for their crimes, but instead that we,
as a society, can hold people accountable while also giving them the tools they need to succeed in the future.
Treatment, whether incorporated into the prison system or used as a tool by the legal system in lieu of jail time, is a viable option.
Drug and alcohol treatment centers have helped numerous opiate addicts. Treatment won’t help every addicted person every time, but it
will help some of them some of the time. And if that person it helped was someone you loved, someone who was more than the actions of
their addiction, wouldn’t you want them to have that opportunity?
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