“NEW YORK’S OPIOID CRISIS”

Next week, PBS stations and state officials partner up in the fight against addiction. Tonight in a preview of our coverage, meet a man who went from federal prosecutor to federal prisoner, and see the harrowing steps he took to break his addiction.

For more information on substance abuse resources, click here. 

Aired on October 12, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> DRAGON, SMACK, DOPE, WHATEVER YOU CALL IT, HEROINS HAS MADE A BIG COMEBACK AND THE CONSEQUENCES HAVE BEEN FATAL.

ACCORDING TO THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT, IN THE LAST TWO YEARS, NEW YORK CITY ALONE, 72% OF ALL OVERDOSE DEATHS INVOLVE HEROIN.

FOR THE PAST SIX YEARS, OVERDOSE DEATHS HAVE BEEN ON THE RISE DRAMATICALLY.

NEXT WEEK 'METROFOCUS' AND PBS STATIONS ARE TEAMING ARE WITH ALCOHOLISM AND SUBSTANCE ABUSER VISS TO BRING AWARENESS AND HOPEFULLY AN END TO THIS ON GOING SCOURGE.

BEFORE THAT, A PREVIEW OF SORTS AND A CAUTIONARY TALE THAT IS ALMOST TOO INCREDIBLE TO BELIEVE.

FEDERAL PROSECUTOR ANDREW McKENNA BECAME A FEDERAL PRISONER WHEN HE GOT LOST IN HEROIN ADDICTION AND WOUND UP BEHIND BARS ALONG WITH MANY THAT HE CONVICTED.

HE CHRONICLED IT IT IN HIS BOOK 'SHEAR MADNESS.'

ANDREW, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

A GREAT PLEASURE.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE FIRST PART OF YOUR RESUME, MILITARY, JAG OFFICER, FEDERAL PRO CAN YOU TELLER.

IMPRESSIVE GUY.

MEETING YOU, THAT REENFORCES THAT.

THEN FURTHER DOWN THE RESUME, FEDERAL PRISONER.

HOW DID YOU GET THERE?

PAUL GRANDO WHO WRITES FOR A PAPER IN ALBANY, HE HAD A GREAT LINE THAT SAID HEROIN DOESN'T READ RESUMES.

FOR ME I HAD THIS MASSIVE FALL FROM GRACE.

AND THERE'S SEVERAL REASONS WHY.

IT TOOK A LONG TIME TO FIGURE THESE THINGS OUT.

A LOT OF TIMES SITTING IN GROUP THERAPY, A LOT OF TIME IN INDIVIDUAL COUNSELING.

WHAT HAPPENS WAS I STARTED DABBLING IN PRESCRIPTION PAIN MEDICINE FOLLOWING AN INJURY IN THE MARINE CORPS.

I PRETTY MUCH COULD HAVE TREATED IT WITH MOTRIN AND HEATING PADS AND ICE AND THAT KIND OF THING, BUT I CAME TO ENJOY THE FEELING, THE EUPHORIA OF THE OPIATE.

NATURALLY I HAVE AN ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY.

IT'S SOMETHING I ALWAYS HAD TO KEEP AN EYE ON.

DID YOU REALIZE THAT BACK THEN?

IS THIS SOMETHING THAT BECAME CLEAR TO YOU IN RETROSPECT?

YOU KNOW, I DID KNOW.

I DIDN'T KNOW THAT SOMETHING LIKE OPIATES COULD SEND ME DOWN A PATH THAT I NEVER COULD HAVE IMAG IMAGINED, RIGHT?

THAT WAS A GAME-CHANGER FOR ME.

DABBLING IN MARIJUANA AND BEER AND STUFF LIKE THAT AS A TEENAGER, OKAY, THAT'S ONE TLING.

I DON'T CONDONE IT.

I HAVE STEPDAUGHTERS, I DON'T CONDONE IT.

BUT THE OPIATES GRAB YOU IN A WAY LIKE NO OTHER DRUG CAN.

NOT ONLY IS IT THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ADDICTION ASPECT OF IT, BUT THE PHYSICAL ADDICTION.

WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF OPIATES, YOU FEEL ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE.

I'M NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT LORTAB AND HYDROCODONE, OXYCODONE.

IF YOU GET INTO OXYCONTIN WHICH IS WHAT I DID EVENTUALLY, THAT'S A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BALL GAME.

DID ANYBODY SEE THIS HAPPENING WITH YOU?

DID ANYBODY GRAB YOU AND PULL YOU ASIDE AND SAY HEY, ANDREW, MAN, YOU'VE GOT TO SLOW DOWN HERE?

WHAT WAS HAPPENING -- I WAS FUNCTIONING AT A VERY, VERY HIGH LEVEL WHICH I READ ABOUT IN THE BOOK.

I WAS LEADING LARGELY A DOUBLE LIFE.

BUT AS WE KNOW THROUGH ADDICTION COUNSELORS AND THROUGH COMMON SENSE, THAT'S REALLY -- LIVING THAT LIFESTYLE IS A HOUSE OF CARDS.

IT'S EVENTUALLY GOING TO COME DOWN, AND IT DID FOR ME.

I ENDED UP GOING THROUGH A DIFFICULT CUSTODY BATTLE.

AFTER I LEFT THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WE MOVED BACK TO ALBANY, NEW YORK.

I HAD TWO YOUNG SONS.

I HAD A DECENT JOB, BUT THE WHEELS WERE COMING OFF THE BUS, AND I COULDN'T FIND A DOCTOR IN NEW YORK TO PRESCRIBE OPIATES AT THE LEVEL THAT I WAS SORT OF ADDICTED TO.

SO I WENT TO THE STREET DRUG DEALERS BASICALLY THROUGH AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE AND FOUND OXYCONTIN FOR THE FIRST TIME.

THAT WAS JUST A GAME-CHANGER.

I REMEMBER SITTING IN AN OFFICE POURING DOWN SWEAT, ON THE VERGE OF VOMITING IN MY WASTE BASKET BECAUSE I COULDN'T GET ANYMORE OXYCONTIN, AND EVENTUALLY I TURNED TO HEROIN.

IT'S A COMMON STORY.

IT'S A TRAGIC STORY BECAUSE I WAS ABLE TO PULL OUT OF IT, BUT NOT UNTIL I DID 65 MONTHS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR BANK ROBBERIES.

LET ME TALK ABOUT THAT.

SURE.

IT'S A FASCINATING BOOK.

I WANT PEOPLE TO READ IT.

YOU'RE VERY OPEN AND CANDID.

BEFORE YOU SAID THAT, PEOPLE WERE PROBABLY WATCHING US AND LISTENING SAYING, HERE IS A GUY WHO HAD A GREAT FUTURE AND GREAT TALENT, GOT INVOLVED IN THIS HEROIN, PROBABLY LOST HIS JOB, MAYBE EVEN FALSIFIED SOME PRESCRIPTIONS.

YOU GOT INVOLVED IN BANK ROBBERY.

RIGHT.

AND THIS IS WHERE THE PAGE SORT OF TURNS, WHERE MY STORY IS DIFFERENT FROM THE GUY WHO JUST GETS ADDICTED AND GOES TO REHAB AND GETS BETTER OR DOESN'T GET BETTER.

I WENT THROUGH, AS I MENTIONED, A BAD CUSTODY BATTLE.

CONTINUOUS SETBACKS AND I FELL INTO A DEEP, DEEP DEPRESSION.

THE SETBACKS THAT I GOT IN FAMILY COURT WERE 99% MY FAULT BUT I COULDN'T SEE THEM, AND IT BROKE MY HEART.

SO DURING A PERIOD OF ANGER ON MY WAY TO FAMILY COURT, INSTEAD OF GOING TO FAMILY COURT WHERE I KNEW I WOULD GET ANOTHER SETBACK, MAYBE GET TO SEE THEM ONCE EVERY TWO MONTHS OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, I DROVE NORTH AND I ROBBED A BANK.

LET ME STOP YOU.

I DROVE NORTH AND I ROBBED A BANK.

RIGHT.

HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN.

YOU WHO WERE A JAG OFFICER, A FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, A SMART GUY, A PERSONAL GUY, WHAT MAKES YOU SAY I'M GOING TO GO ROB A BANK?

THERE'S SOME DISCONNECT IN MY MIND.

IT'S SO DIFFICULT FOR ME TO EXPLAIN IT.

I NEEDED MONEY, CLEARLY, BUT THERE WERE OTHER OPTIONS.

I'M NOT A SOCIOPATH.

I'M NOT CLINICALLY INSANE ORDER RANGED, SO I DON'T KNOW.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I PASSED THAT EXIT AND SHOULD HAVE GONE TO SARATOGA FAMILY COURT AND INSTEAD DROVE TO LAKE GEORGE.

BUT SOMETHING CLICKED IN MY MIND OR DIDN'T CLICK IN MY MIND.

THE MEMORY IS BOTH VIVID AND BLURRY AT THE SAME TIME.

IS IT ALMOST LIKE WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT, YOU'RE WATCHING A MOVIE?

IS IT SOMEBODY ELSE YOU SEE DOING THIS?

THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT.

IT'S ALMOST LIKE, IT'S THAT WEIRD FILTER ON A CAMERA WHERE THE COLORS ARE JUST OFF A LITTLE BIT, AND THAT'S MY MEMORY OF IT.

AND IT WAS ALMOST LIKE I WAS IN A TRANCE-LIKE STATE.

I TRAVEL THE COUNTRY NOW TALKING TO DIFFERENT GROUPS.

I TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THE DANGERS OF PRESCRIPTION DRUG USE.

NOT USE, BUT ABUSE, BUT HOW THAT USE CAN TURN TO ABUSE AND ULTIMATELY CAN LEAD TO HEROIN OR MORE DANGEROUS THINGS.

BUT ONE OF THE THINGS I TALK ABOUT IS THAT POINT OF ME GOING PAST MY FAMILY COURT HEARING AND DOING WHAT I DID.

THE MESSAGE IS SORT OF LIKE BE AWARE, BE SUPER SELF-AWARE OF WHAT YOU'RE GOING THROUGH IN YOUR LIFE.

TALK TO PEOPLE.

ASK FOR HELP BECAUSE HELP IS THERE.

AND THE STUDENTS ARE RECEPTIVE TO IT.

AFTER I SPEAK FOR 40 MINUTES, WE GO ON FOR 30 MINUTES OF Q&A.

THE BOOK IS CALLED 'SHEAR MADNESS: FROM FEDERAL PROSECUTOR TO FEDERAL PRISONER.'

A HARROWING LIFE STORY.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE ON THE WAY TO A GOOD ENDING.

IF I CAN HELP OTHERS, THEREIN LIES THE REDEMPTION.

ANDREW McKENNA, THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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