Chauvin Defense ‘Weaponized’ Addiction Stigma : NPR


An individual holds up a portrait of George Floyd as folks collect outdoors the Hennepin County Authorities Heart on April 9 in Minneapolis

Stephen Maturen/Getty Photographs

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Stephen Maturen/Getty Photographs

An individual holds up a portrait of George Floyd as folks collect outdoors the Hennepin County Authorities Heart on April 9 in Minneapolis

Stephen Maturen/Getty Photographs

When George Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross took the stand for the prosecution, she described the couple’s wrestle with medicine as a part of the nation’s lethal opioid epidemic.

“It is a traditional story of how many individuals get hooked on opioids,” Ross testified. “We each suffered from power ache. We each had prescriptions.”

Through the opioid disaster, tens of millions of People grew to become hooked on prescription painkillers, then turned to avenue opioids together with fentanyl. “We tried actually exhausting to interrupt that habit many instances,” Ross stated.

Her account broadly matches the best way scientists, habit care specialists and lots of legislation enforcement specialists now take into consideration habit: as a power sickness.

It is harmful and difficult for the particular person with substance use dysfunction, however is most frequently treatable with correct well being care.

But throughout Derek Chauvin’s trial, his protection has labored to border the habit of George Floyd, a Black man, as one thing legal, harmful and scary.

“That is what’s referred to as a speedball, a combination of an opiate and a stimulant,” stated Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson, referring to a tablet discovered on the scene the place George Floyd was killed.

Nelson raised the difficulty of Floyd’s drug use many times, suggesting narcotics in his system made him unpredictable. He pointed to police coaching that implies officers “have to be cautious when somebody comes out of unconsciousness” as a result of “they are often extra risky.”

This portrayal of Floyd infuriates Dr. Stephen Taylor, a nationwide knowledgeable on drug therapy with the American Society of Dependancy Drugs.

Taylor believes the proof, together with video taken on the scene, exhibits Floyd wanted well being care and compassion, however was dealt with as a substitute with extreme pressure.

“Many people Black people, together with me personally, we take a look at that state of affairs and we see that that might simply have been me. That would have been my brother. That would simply have been my son,” he stated.

Taylor has written extensively about racial bias in the treatment of people with addiction.

He notes most individuals who use medicine face stigma. However studies show people of color with addiction are often viewed far more negatively than whites — as harmful criminals moderately than sympathetic sufferers.

Taylor says this framing is racist, and he believes it has been used intentionally by Chauvin’s protection workforce to sway the jury.

“The concept that the presence of medication in George Floyd’s system ought to by some means be weaponized in opposition to him to justify somebody killing him is extremely painful,” he stated.

Kassandra Frederique, govt director of the Drug Policy Alliance, agrees. She stated the argument that Floyd’s drug use legitimized Chauvin’s violence is dismaying however not shocking.

“Medicine have traditionally been used as pretext in addition to justification for legislation enforcement violence in opposition to Black folks,” she instructed NPR.

Frederique believes the hassle in the course of the trial to shift the main focus to Floyd and his drug use is a part of a wider effort meant to distract from insurance policies that put Black folks with habit in peril.

“That is about policing on this nation. It’s about the best way we have now chosen to answer a well being problem like habit by a legal justice lens.”

Regardless of the consequence, it’s probably the decision on this trial and its which means will likely be fiercely debated. However Dr. Stephen Taylor stated if Chauvin is acquitted, the sign heard by folks of shade who wrestle with drug habit will likely be clear.

“It is going to be a horrible message. It is going to be a message that … says you might be crushed, and you’ll be tortured, and you’ll be killed, and that sickness then turns into the justifying excuse to permit somebody to get away with doing that to you.”

Taylor stated stigma and concern of police are already protecting many Black People from searching for assist they want at a time when overdose deaths are surging particularly amongst folks of shade.

“The state of affairs is just not hopeless,” he stated. “I am hopeful folks more and more are coming to grasp the character of habit as a power, relapsing illness. They’re coming to grasp the best way we have to tackle this drawback in BIPOC communities is to spend money on a public well being method.”


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