Thursday, January 22, 2015

Buffaloed by Ed Hughes

Is Ed Hughes' time buffaloing the public about up?

More than once, Ed Hughes and Ronald Turner, co-authors of Baffled by Addiction? (2009), say the term addict should be avoided because it stigmatizes those afflicted by drugs, but the word addict or a variant appears over a hundred times in the book’s 185 padded pages.  The failed attempt to detoxify the word addict  is part of the overall failure of  the book, one of whose primary objectives is to absolve  drug addicts of any responsibility for their addiction on the grounds that addiction is a disease that some people can’t help catching. The concept of addiction as a disease  is widely accepted, but the  conclusions Hughes and Turner draw from the disease concept of addiction are not widely accepted. To begin with they are wrong in thinking other factors besides physiology  are of little or no importance. Addiction is a disease that has a physiological basis, but so is VD.  You contract VD by engaging in unsafe sex and you get addicted by taking addictive drugs. Patients who get addicted as a result of a doctor’s prescription are not responsible for their addiction, although even they it could be argued are not completely blameless since they unwisely let prescription happy doctors over-prescribe opioids without a peep.

 People who take addictive drugs without a doctor’s prescription with the aim of getting high bear the primary responsibility for their addiction.  American society has gone from the Calvinist view that people are inherently evil to the politically correct notion that people are innocent victims of forces and circumstances beyond their control. Hughes and Turner in Baffled by Addiction (2009) seek to assuage the guilt of their prospective “clients,” the addicts, as well as assuage the guilt of the addicts' families, the “Loved Ones,” in Hughes’ seductively exploitative parlance. Hughes and Turner say in  Baffled,  “So a person’s addiction is no one’s fault and no one’s to blame. Not the family, an unsavory peer group, or the stress of life. Not even the addicted person himself [is to blame]” (p.25). But the  majority of drug addicts are not innocent victims who are baffled by addiction but  perpetrators who are complicit in their addiction, and for saying just the opposite Hughes and Turner, for pecuniary motives, are trying to buffalo us. At least we are not sheep, who end up being slaughtered, but buffaloes, not the brightest beast in the world, are not hard to buffalo.

Drawing the Wrong Conclusions

Yes, the disease concept of  addiction is widely accepted. But the interpretations and conclusions Hughes and Turner draw from the disease concept of addiction are not widely accepted. Hughes  is wrong  in thinking other factors besides physiology are of little or no importance. In a review of Stanton Peele’s Diseasing of America (1989),  G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., the Director of the  Addictive Behaviors Research Center at University of Washington, wrote, "Peele makes it abundantly clear that the disease model of addiction, the ideology that currently reigns over the American addiction treatment industry, is basically an emperor without clothes. By placing addictive behaviors in the context of other problems of living, Peele emphasizes personal responsibility for one's habits. His views, well documented with timely references to new scientific data, contrasts sharply with the biological determinism of the disease model, a view that portrays addicts as helpless victims of forces beyond their control.” “The Addictive Treatment Industry,” Chapter Five of Peele's Diseasing of America, discusses the many different areas in which the profiteers in that industry, posing as Good Samaritans,  have sold the public a bill of goods. Not realizing they are being buffaloed by the addiction treatment industry, the gullible government and the baffled taxpayers ultimately pay the bills.

Though Hughes and Turner ask us to believe alcoholism and drug addiction are pretty much the same thing, they are not, any more than getting “smashed” is the same thing as getting high. In a  review of Baffled  on the Amazon website, one reader wrote, “I had a need for something about drug addiction. This is about alcoholism and some principles can be interchanged, but I didn't find it that useful.” Why does Hughes conflate alcoholism and drug addiction in Baffled? Because he understood that if he was going to come up with the money to  pay himself $140 K a year, then he had to counsel drug addicts as well as alcoholics. Because Hughes and Turner were recovering alcoholics, alcoholics were who they were best qualified to understand and to counsel. But as aspiring businessmen who could count to ten, they  knew that in the addiction treatment industry the most numerous and most profitable “clients” were drug addicts, not alcoholics. Hughes gives credit in the Preface to Baffled to Alcoholics Anonymous ( AA) and to what he calls “professional alcoholism counselors” for his achieving sobriety. But Hughes is lucky he had not sought help from a counselor like himself, who turned addiction counseling in Scioto County into a business that shortchanges  its “clients” and financially exploits the taxpayers who ultimately subsidize the treatment of those "clients." Nationally, as Peele emphasized, the drug treatment industry generally, if not exclusively, is a racket. Alcoholics Anonymous, by contrast, is a legitimate non-profit organization, a fellowship,  whose founders recognized the risks of having someone trying to capitalize on the treatment of alcoholics by turning it into a profit-driven business, which  is just what Hughes turned Scioto County Counseling Center, Inc., into.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Hughes wrote in Baffled  that, “The idea for this book came from my best friend, Dr. Ron Turner, who has also shared the vision of helping families and loved ones for a long time.” In calling the  outlook he shared with Turner a “vision,” Hughes suggests that the Scioto County Counseling Center (SCCC), with its tail-wagging-the-dog affiliate Compass Point Housing,  is  more  a spiritual, more a  humanitarian, more a philanthropic  than a profit-making operation. The  crux of the problem with the burgeoning privatized addiction treatment industry  is that too many of the hundreds of  the operators of so-called counseling centers, including the SCCC, are addicted to money. In Scioto County Ed Hughes, with his big house high on a hill in Sciotoville,  has succeeded in buffaloing the public that the Counseling Center is working miracles. But it may be that the miracle worker's time is just about up, and there is no doctor that can save him.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Cross, Dancing Logo, and Dollar Sign


The  cross, representing  the promise of eternal life  through Christ’s suffering, is the central symbol of Christianity. This particular  cross had  stood high over Portsmouth for many years in a church tower, but then that tower was toppled, as shown in this photo that I took at the exact moment the tower came crashing down. 

The trashed cross, part of the rubble, lay on the ground for about a week. 


At about that time, a new quasi-religious symbol arrived in Portsmouth, the joyous dancing logo of the Scioto County Counseling Center, Inc., with its motto of miraculous cures for addicts, 


In Boneyfiddle, the neighborhood of churches, the logo of the Counseling Center took its place among the steeples.  


But a more appropriate symbol for the Counseling Center would be a happy skeleton, dancing for joy because of the miracle cure the non-profit is profiting from.  


People who take addictive drugs without a doctor’s prescription with the aim of getting high  bear the primary responsibility for their addiction.  As a society we have gone from the Calvinist view that people are inherently wicked to the politically correct notion that people are innocent victims of forces and circumstances beyond their control. But Hughes and Turner adopt this tolerant approach for mercenary, not for compassionate or philosophic reasons. In an effort to assuage the guilt of the addicted and to attract them to the SCCC  them as “clients,” Ed Hughes and Ron Turner, the authors of Baffled by Addiction, conclude,  “So a person’s addiction is no one’s fault and no one’s to blame. Not the family, an unsavory peer group, or the stress of life. Not even the addicted person himself [is to blame]” (p.25).


But the  large majority of drug addicts are not innocent victims who are baffled by addiction but  perpetrators who are complicit in their addiction. That is the view of Stanton Peele in Diseasing of America, first published in 1989, some ten years after the incorporation of the Scioto County Counseling Center. Chapter 5, "The Addiction Treatment Industry,"  is especially relevant to the Counseling Center, which is one of the hundreds of treatment businesses that make up the industry. Of  Diseasing of America, the director of an addictive research center at the U. of Washington, G. Alan Marlatt, wrote, "Peele makes it abundantly clear that the disease model of addiction, the ideology that currently reigns over the American addiction treatment industry, is basically an emperor without clothes. By placing addictive behaviors in the context of other problems of living, Peele emphasizes personal responsibility for one's habits. His views, well documented with timely references to new scientific data, contrasts sharply with the biological determinism of the disease model, a view that portrays addicts as helpless victims of forces beyond their control. The book empowers the reader to view addiction in a new optimistic light."

In Diseasing of America: How We Allowed Recovery Zealots and the Treatment Industry to Convince Us We Are Out of Control, Peele wrote (p. 116),  "Why do we accept the industry and all its self-serving claims, sometimes eagerly signing on for our own groups and treatment, even when the evidence is that these groups and this treatment do little to help us as individuals and a society?" Peele published that sentence back in 1989, when the Counseling Center was just underway. Now a quarter-century later that local representation  of the addiction treatment industry, including its metastasizing affiliate, Compass Point Housing, is allowed to operate without oversight and accountability and with the complicity of corrupt city and county officials who, as Austin Leedom has pointed out,  turn over to them public buildings, such as the Scudder School, without the taxpayers being reimbursed a dime. Is it any wonder that the county and the city got into such a financial hole while Ed Hughes, the semi-absentee CEO  is getting annually a $140,000 compensation package?



Friday, December 26, 2014

Judge Mowery and the First Amendment

The Mowery property at 1327 Kinney's Lane

The First Commandment of Portsmouth real estate is that when a person of influence has a piece of property that is difficult to sell in the chronically depressed Portsmouth real estate market, a public or semi-public entity will take it off his or her hands and, drawing directly or indirectly on public monies, pay appreciably more than the property is worth. (For more on the First Commandment, click here.) The Marting Foundation infamously unloaded the empty, leaking, unmarketable Marting building off on  the city a dozen or so years ago  for almost $2,000,000, and that building has been an albatross around the neck of the city and its taxpayers ever since.

A more recent, smaller scale example of the First Commandment apparently at work is the house at 1327  Kinney's Lane  (shown above) owned by Judge Steven Mowery and his wife Leasa. In a public notice in the classified section of the Portsmouth Daily Times (PDT), it was announced as required by law that Scioto County Counseling Center/Compass Point Housing intended to purchase 1327 Kinney's Lane and another house at 644 4th Street and convert them into  "dormitories" for "residents." In the lexicon of the burgeoning drug addiction treatment industry, addicts with some kind of coverage are "clients" and halfway houses for them are "dormitories," and drug clinics to dispense drugs to them are "counseling centers."

The misleading classified ad that was buried in
 the classifieds of the Portsmouth Daily Times.

Before 1327 Kinney's Lane and 644 4th Street in Boneyfiddle could be sold to SCCC/Compass Point, 4th Street residents learned about the notice buried in the classified section of the PDT and became politically galvanized, appearing at the 16/9/2014 meeting of the City Planning Commission at the Municipal Building to make clear they didn't want  the Counseling Center owning and operating any more property in their neighborhood, which was already saturated with tax-free, socially toxic Counseling Center properties. By protesting, Boneyfiddle residents had made the Mowery house on Kinney's Lane and the 4th Street house political hot potatoes. In my interpretation of what happened, in an attempt to squelch the controversy,  SCCC/Compass Point tried to drop the political hot potatoes as quickly as possible. Toward that end, Craig Gullion, the Executive Director of Compass Point Housing, appeared at the hearing in the Municipal Building to announce his organization was no longer interested in acquiring 1327 Kinney’s Lane because  it was too small for the number of "residents" that Compass Point had wanted to house there. Gullion's  explanation was fishy. Hadn't he, as the Executive Director of Compass Point Housing,  or hadn't someone else in his organization, ever been inside 1327 Kinney's Lane before deciding to buy it?  Isn’t the size of a house one of the first things a prospective buyer, especially the Executive Director of a housing company, would notice? Even if his sense of size was faulty,  wouldn’t the County Auditor’s website have provided the exact square footage for him to determine whether 1327 Kinney’s Lane was big enough to suit Compass Point's purposes?

The size of the house at 1327 Kinney's Lane may not have been the problem. The size may have been a smokescreen Gulllion  raised to cover his tracks.  Since the purchase of 1327 Kinney's Lane by the Counseling Center had become controversial, wouldn't  the fact that Judge Mowery was the potential seller raise eyebrows? It raised more than my eyebrows when I examined the fiscal year 2012-2013 federal form 990 that SCCC/Compass Point was required as a non-profit to file with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. What form 990  revealed was that Judge Mowery's wife Leasa, the co-owner of 1327 Kinney's Lane, was the president of  SCCC's fifteen-member Board of Trustees. Because of her important position at SCCC and because of her husband's role as municipal judge, their sale of 1327 Kinney's Lane to SCCC would have appeared to be a glaring conflict of interest. But hardly anybody would have known that if the SCCC hadn't been required as a non-profit to publicly reveal who was who and what was what financially in that somewhat secretive corporation. Non-profits are held to a higher standard and can't get away with the unethical hanky-panky private corporations can. Just what the legal and organizational relationship between the SCCC and Compassing Point Housing is cannot be determined by the 2012-2013 990 form. Who is who and what is what financially at Compass Point needs clarification for it looks like the tail that is wagging the SCCC.

In addition to a couple of the usual suspects, such as Julia Wisniewski,  what follows are the names of the fifteen members of the Board of Trustees of SCCC:

Board of Trustees of SCCC 2012-2013
Leasa Mowery,  Pres.
Brady Womack, VP
Barbara Burke, Secty-Treas.
Mark Cardosi
Karly Estep
Susan Fitzer
Joan Flowers
Asa Jewett
Wm. McKinley 
Dr. Robert Nelson
Wm. Plettner
Barry Rodbell
Rev. Sallie Schisler
Dr. Ronald Turner
Julia Wisniewski

How much might SCCC/Compass Point have overpaid the Mowerys for the Kinney Lane property if the sale had taken place? That is anybody's guess. But if the First Commandment of Portsmouth real estate was followed, as it was with the Marting building, it might have been well above fair market value. But the petition the residents of 4th Street filed with the City Planning Commission changed the fate not only of 1237 Kinney's Lane but of 644 4th Street as well. Since the controversy broke, SCCC/Compass Point has done nothing about buying 644 4th Street, and now appears to have less than no interest in it. Because of the political blowback, that once red hot potato is colder than an ice cube and may end up on the auction block (click here).

644 4th St.: "the once hot potato is colder than an ice cube."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

O, Little Town of Portsmouth

The Marting Building,  alias the Town Center, All Aglow

As hard as it is to believe, the empty, leaky, moldy, politically radioactive 135-year-old Marting building is  yet again being pushed as the home for city offices in spite of voters having turned it down again and again.

How proudly, how reverently
A gift from Marting’s was given,
For Marting’s imparted unto Appalachia
A little touch of heaven—

A cashmere sweater, a prom dress,
A suit, a shirt, a fancy tie-pin—
“One of Ohio’s good stores,”
A place where even a guy would buy in.

But now in the leaking building
Shineth an unearthly light:
The mold of hundred-and-thirty-years
Glows eerily at night.

O, little town of Portsmouth,
How still thy overdosing politicians lie,
Who paid two million for Marting’s
And gave the city a black-eye.

While the rich whites celebrate
Xmas on the Hill above,
Listening to the caroling
To the birth of the God of love,

The fifty-thousand-watt Weasel,
Full of holiday chatter and mirth,
Is canoodling the Skunk and the Fox,
And a Mike of considerable girth.

O, God above,
Listen to us, we pray.
Cast out the lawyers and developers,
The Philistines of today.

Let the archangel Gabriel,
The great glad tidings tell:
The rich white trash of Portsmouth
Are going straight to hell.

                        R. Forrey, 2009

This poem was originally posted on Dec. 11. 2009. For the 2006 Marting Xmas poem, click here. For more on the Marting building, click here.


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Can of Worms Counseling Center

The Loco Fred Astaire Can of Worms Logo

The phrase “a can of worms” has not been around very long so its meaning is still evolving. I will use the phrase in this and a subsequent series of River Vices posts on the Scioto County Counseling Center (SCCC) in the sense of “creating a host of potential problems.”  There are so many problems at SCCC, or so many worms in the can, that it’s hard to know where to begin, but it would be useful to know, at the outset, who the officers in the somewhat shadowy company are. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service form 990, which can be seen on Guidestar, an  information service that keeps tabs on American non-profit companies, there were  four officers in the fiscal year 2012-2013: Thurman Edward Hughes, Andrew B. Albrecht, Lora Gampp, and Kevin L. Blevins.

Officers at SCCC as of 2012-2013

Title    Name                           Compensation

CEO     Edward Hughes              $140,134

CEO    Andrew Albrecht             $80,674

CFO    Lora Gampp                     $83,327

COO   Kevin Blevins                   $78,007

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the principal decision-making person in an organization. In the case of the SCCC there appears to be one too many CEOs.  I don’t understand how there can be two CEO’s in one company, but the form 990 filed with the IRS by the SCCC names both Hughes and Albrecht as CEOs. In a report in the Portsmouth Daily Times (24 July 2013), Albrecht is referred to as the Executive Director of the Counseling Center. But only  Albrecht’s  name is listed  in the person-to-contact box of IRS form 990 (above), suggesting he is in charge of day-to-day operations. Possibly Hughes, in his big house high on a hill in Sciotovlle, is in semi-retirement, but still collecting full salary. In the calendar year 2012, form 990 informs us, there were 217 SCCC employees, whose  salaries amounted collectively to about $6,000,000, which was about 60% of the roughly $10,000,000 in revenue SCCC took in that year. Where does all that revenue come from?

SCCC has what could be described as a  captive clientele, since many of them begin drug rehabilitation treatment under a court order. That captive clientele  could also be called lucrative since Uncle Sam, with deep pockets, directly and indirectly, pays most of the cost of their  treatment.

That Albrecht  would oversee so big an operation is surprising  since he does not appear to have the educational qualifications for a CEO. Anyone in  field of addiction counseling, which has mushroomed in the last quarter century,  must swim in a sea of anagrams. The anagrams that follow Hughes' name are MPS and LICDC, presumably for Master of Professional Studies and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor. Hughes co-authored a book titled Baffled by Addiction (2009). I will admit to being somewhat baffled by the acronyms in the field of addiction counseling. If Albrecht has anagrams after his name, it is a well-kept secret. His educational background was not mention in the PDT story that reported his promotion to Executive Director, but neither was his police record reported in that same story. His rap sheet stretches  as far back as 1996, when he was not yet out of his teens. (If he had broken  the law in his early  teens, that is no longer part of the public record.) The anagrams associated with his police record, such as  DUI and DUS, are a matter of  public record, and reveal that in addition to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (DUI) and with his license suspended (DUS), that he was also arrested for underage drinking; for failing to yield; for driving the wrong way on a one way street; for speeding (more than once); for illegally parking on a public highway; for not wearing a seatbelt;  for possessing drug paraphernalia; for drug use (more than once); for assault; for disturbing the peace; for disorderly conduct; and for receiving stolen property. If 1996 was his earliest run-in with the police, 2013, when he was clocked doing 70 in a 55 mph zone, was his latest. It was just months after that ticket for speeding that he was promoted to C.E.O./E.D. at SCCC. During the years most bright, ambitious young men his age would have been pursuing an undergraduate and graduate degree in some professional field, Albrecht, judging by his police record (below), was into drugs, speeding, and screwing off. But since these acronyms in the field of addiction counseling can be earned at least in part online,  perhaps he too has more than one anagram. 


If abusing drugs and driving recklessly appear to be  requirements for holding public office in Portsmouth, as in the case of the failed grocery clerk, Jim Kalb, why shouldn’t those same lawless activities qualify someone to be the CEO of a Portsmouth company like the SCCC? It is true that Albrecht has not yet  failed in business and declared himself bankrupt, which appears to be another requirement for holding public office in Portsmouth, but he is still in his thirties. He has time. Who knows, if he is crooked and incompetent enough, he too may end up, like those  lugubrious failures Kalb, Bauer, Malone, Haas, Saddler, and Kevin W. Johnson, slithering in the can of worms  of  Portsmouth politics. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Addiction to Money: the Skunk, the Fox, and the Consigliere

Money-addicted Fox and Skunk 

In my previous post, “A Brief History of Portsmouth’s Psychotropic Addictions,”  I said there is a drug, loosely speaking, that has been even more pervasive and addictive than the cocaine, Valium,  Oxycontin, Suboxone, etc.,  that have plagued Portsmouth. That drug is money. Unlike addictions caused by chemicals, the addictions caused by money are called  process or behavior addictions, in which,  through the release of pleasure-producing dopamines, the brain gets rewired neurologically and as a result compulsively repeats the pleasurable pursuit of money. "In the brain," Wikipedia says, "dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of reward increase the level of dopamine in the brain, and a variety of addictive drugs increase dopamine neuronal activity."

Dopamine molecules

A couple of  enterprising money addicts,  whom I called the Skunk and the Fox in a poem I posted five years ago (click here),  realized they could get rich quick by capitalizing on  Portsmouth’s pervasive poverty, the crumbling housing stock and eminent domain being the skunk’s bailiwick, the legal monkey business of estate planning  and tax write-offs being  the Fox’s. In 1963, in a speech before Congress, President Lyndon Johnson declared War on Poverty. The federal government’s weapon of choice in that war was not tanks and battleships but money.

In  that same year, 1963,  a handful of Portsmouth entrepreneurs  formed  a now infamous private corporation that ended up with the name Southern Ohio Growth Partnership, Inc. (SOGP), with the Fox being the brains behind the operation. The mission  of the SOGP was to distribute the War on Poverty money that  was flowing into southern Ohio in the form of  grants and loans for deserving businessmen. (Just as there are "deserving poor,"  there are deserving businessmen.) In deciding which deserving businessman got how much of the addictive drug, money, the  SOGP Fox was the equivalent of a powerful drug lord. The SOGP went out of business last year after it was discovered they were cooking the books. The Fox has since retired but the Skunk has not. Some years ago I was told of an exchange somebody had with the Skunk. When asked why he hadn’t retired seeing he had already made a lot of money,  the Skunk said, or so the story goes, “There’s never enough money.”

The War on Drugs

As the Skunk and Fox had profited from the money the government spent on the War on  Poverty, a couple of younger money addicts have come along in Portsmouth who are profiting not from the passé War on Poverty but from the War on Drugs. They see themselves as drug counselors acting out of humanitarian and even religious motives, but their critics think of them more as consiglieres, which is Italian for "counselors."  Just recently, one of these consiglieres has had his two Portsmouth counseling centers raided by the police and he has been charged with money laundering and racketeering. 

The term War on Drugs was  coined by President Nixon in a special message to Congress on June 17, 1971, in which he promised federal resources would be devoted to “the prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted.” Thirty-five years after Nixon declared War on Drugs, that war rages on, with no end in sight, with an estimated $51,000,000,000 (that's 51 billion!) being spent annually on it, dwarfing what had been spent on the War on Poverty, which did not last beyond the 1960s. Of the 50 states in the U.S., Ohio is the 11th most addicted and Scioto County among the highest per capita addicted Ohio counties, and no where more so than in the county seat, Portsmouth, which attracts money addicts like honey attracts flies. For soldiers of fortune, Portsmouth is a very profitable place to fight the War on Drugs.

In my next post I will provide a peek inside the Scioto County Counseling Center, Inc., the oldest, largest, and most profitable of the local "non-profit" counseling centers. I will also throw a little light on the shadowy but well-paid "consigliere" behind it. 
. . .

Brain circuitry

"The brain includes several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of reward increase the level of dopamine in the brain, and a variety of addictive drugs increase dopamine neuronal activity." For more on brain circuitry as a result of process addiction, see my previous post "Just Say No to Ed Hughes"  (click here).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Brief History of Portsmouth's Psychotropic Addictions

In the last sixty-five years or so, psychotropic (mind altering) drugs  have had a profound  impact on America and on  Portsmouth in particular.  The history of  psychotropic drugs, at least in Portsmouth, can be divided for rhetorical purposes into roughly  five  overlapping stages. Those could be called, based on the psychotropic drug that predominated in each:  (1) the chlorpromazine (2) the meprobamate;  (3) the benzoylmethylecgonine; (4) the paramorphine; and (5) the buprenorphine  stages. Except for the anti-psychotic chlorpromazine, which was marketed in the U.S. as Thorazine, all of these drugs are addictive to varying degrees. However, the withdrawal symptoms associated with Thorazine can be similar to withdrawal from addictive drugs.

The Chlorpromazine (anti-psychotic) Stage

Above: The psychotropic anti-psychotic chlorpromazine in 3D molecular structure

The first important psychotropic drug in America was the powerful anti-psychotic chlorpromazine,  marketed in the United States as Thorazine. First synthesized in 1950, chlorpromazine revolutionized the psychiatric care of psychotics, particularly schizophrenics. According to Wikipedia, “The introduction of chlorpromazine during the 1950s into clinical use has been described as the single greatest advance in the history of psychiatric care, dramatically improving as it did the prognosis of patients in psychiatric hospitals worldwide.”  In the 1950s, I worked as a psychiatric aid in mental hospitals in Massachusetts and Connecticut  and witnessed firsthand the dramatic improvement  in  the treatment of patients brought about in large measure by chlorpromazine.

I began as a psychiatric aid at Boston State Hospital where I  assisted in the use of hydrotherapy and electro-shock to treat psychotic patients. But just several years later I worked as an aid  in a private mental hospital in Hartford delivering chlorpromazine to more tractable patients. In the 1960s and 1970s, because of  the “tranquilizing” effect of chlorpromazine on psychotics, many public mental hospitals closed down, as Boston State Hospital did in 1979 and as the  Receiving Hospital did in in Portsmouth decades later. Because of advances in  anti-psychotic medications  and the subsequent deinstitutionalization of mental patients, today people are walking the streets in  American cities, including Portsmouth, who would  have been institutionalized  in the 1950s. Diversity was not a virtue in the '50s, when there was little tolerance for deviation in sex, politics, or social behavior.

The Meprobamate (tranquilizer) Stage

Above: The 3D molecular structure of the psychotropic diazepam  (Valium) 
The success of Thorazine helped set  the stage for the synthesizing of milder psychotropic drugs for the treatment of patients with emotional rather than mental problems, patients who were classified as neurotic rather than psychotic. The first tranquilizer, meprobamate, was marketed as Miltown in 1955. “Thorazine—which offered the first effective treatment for schizophrenia—had revolutionized the treatment of institutional psychiatry,” Newsweek reported in 2009, “and Miltown seemed to offer a pharmaceutical counterpart to the management of everyday nerves.” People of a certain age will remember what could be called the  Miltowning of America in the late 1950s. To quote Wikipedia again, “Launched in 1955, [Miltown] rapidly became the first blockbuster psychotropic drug in American history, becoming popular in Hollywood and gaining notoriety for its seemingly miraculous effects.” The pharmaceuticals that developed them usually touted the “miraculous effects” of new  drugs, which was the case with meprobamates. The  harmful side effects were downplayed if not denied entirely. Just as the tobacco industry covered up  the carcinogenic risks of tobacco,  the pharmaceuticals downplayed the addictive nature of tranquilizers.

Miltown was followed by Librium and then  Valium (diazepam), which,  after it was introduced in 1963, became the most widely used  tranquilizer in the world.  Valium was prescribed for everything from phobias to depression, and from anxiety to restless leg syndrome. But it became clear over  time that tranquilizers, including  Valium, were addictive, and when used regularly for a long period, became a serious problem. The  withdrawal symptoms that users experienced when they tried to stop taking Valium were  severe. I know a woman  in her nineties who was addicted to Valium for over  a half century, with only her doctors and close relatives knowing that she was. From what I have gathered, the  first prescription drug addicts in Portsmouth were not long-haired youths but respectable, responsible members of the community who were victimized by the pharmaceuticals that synthesized meprobamates and  by the  doctors who overprescribed them.

The Benzoylmethylecgonine  (cocaine) Stage

It was illegal drugs such as heroin and meth, and particularly cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine), that became the drug of choice in Portsmouth for so-called recreational users. One of the consequences of the  cocaine stage was that the money it illegally generated remained in the underground economy. Drug dealing is a cash only business. That's especially the case with cocaine. The on-line  National Geographic News, of all soures, reported in 2009 that nine out of ten American bills show traces of cocaine. The traces get there when the bills change hands in a drug deal or when addicts use the bills to snort coke.  The coke trade  did little for the chronically depressed economy of Portsmouth. Instead of helping the economy, the money generated by  the cocaine trade  created havoc.  Another problem with cocaine, especially crack cocaine,  was that  too many of  the dealers and  their customers went to jail or died of overdoses. The high incarceration and mortality rate was not good for the coke business. If you have a business that caters to customers who end up behind bars or dead, you do not have customers you can bank on.

As a sign of the extraordinary pervasiveness of the drug problem in Portsmouth’s cocaine stage, the son of the mayor, the son of the police chief, the son of a prominent judge, the son of a prominent lawyer, and the sons and daughters of other prominent fathers became addicted, with some of those sons becoming  dealers themselves. Though more sons than daughters became addicts, the daughters were by no means closeted, for many of the  streetwalkers in Portsmouth were hooked on drugs.  Some years ago I talked to an addicted prostitute on John Street who told me she was related to a bail-bondsman. There was no escape from drugs no matter what family or which social class or which side of the law you were on, or whether your dad was a criminal or a judge. 

 During the crack stage, local, state, and federal governments spent much more money on  than for addicts, much more money arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating than  rehabilitating addicts. There was much more money to build jails to lock addicts up than there was for clinics to treat them.  In 2006,  at the tail end of the crack craze, the $12.5 million dollar Scioto County Jail opened for business with the expectation that if you built it they would come. But with the attrition of crackheads, the new jail had  trouble maintaining full occupancy. That meant the county was losing money while  still having to pay about  $350,000 or so annually to service its debt for the jail.

Jailing addicts for  crimes that were both directly and indirectly related to drugs became  a highly competitive business. The financially strapped Scioto County Jail sought to have prisoners from other counties’ crowded jails transferred to its underutilized facility. Under this arrangement, the other  counties picked up the tab. The Huntington Herald-Dispatch reported in 2014 that ten Lawrence County prisoners had  been incarcerated  at the Scioto County Jail in 2013 at an annual  cost of $230,869 to Lawrence county. When Lawrence county sought to have the empty former youth prison in  Franklin Furnace serve as a less expensive backup to its crowded jail in Ironton, the Scioto County commissioners and sheriff strongly objected, calling the Lawrence County plan not only unfair and in violation of state statutes but also “stupid.”  For competing contiguous counties to be calling each other names is just one of the indirect consequences of the drug epidemic in southern Ohio where addiction, at least for law enforcement agencies, has been  a growth industry. Much of the breaking and entering of homes and automobiles in the Portsmouth area was done by addicts desperate for money to buy drugs. Incidentally, many  drug-related petty crimes were not reported to the police during chief Horner’s stewardship, so Portsmouth’s official crime rate was probably a lot higher than statistics suggested, though those rates were already quite high.

The Paramorphine (oxycodone) Stage

Above: The 3D molecular structure of the psychotropic drug  oxycodone 

The oxycodone stage of addiction in Portsmouth was more profitable than the cocaine stage at least for the pill-mills and those connected to them. Instead of the illegal cocaine, heroin, and meth that fueled the cocaine stage, the oxycodone stage was fueled by a  less potent but  fairly expensive and widely available psychotropic prescription drug. The best selling  brand of oxycodone, Oxycontin helped alleviate pain, including the pain  associated with withdrawal from more potent narcotics, but without producing the high that addicts crave. What made Oxycontin less potent was its timed-release formula. The user did not experience its potency all at once but  gradually, over time. But the timed-release formula was far from foolproof.  An addict was able to easily unleash Oxycontin’s  potency immediately by  chewing, pulverizing, or liquefying it, in which forms it could be swallowed, snorted, or injected.  Even the addition of nalaxone to produce nausea when the drug  was taken in large doses did not stop Oxycontin addiction in the Portsmouth area from  increasing exponentially.

On 9 April 2011, a New York Times reporter wrote of Portsmouth, “This industrial town was once known for its shoes and its steel. But after decades of decline it has made a name for itself for a different reason: it is home to some of the highest rates of prescription drug overdoses in the state . . .” Things got so bad in the Portsmouth area that Governor Kasich said publicly that, when it came to pill-mill prescription drug abuse, “The devil is in control in Scioto County.” One public health official reported one in ten babies born in Scioto County were addicted. The police chief reported that more people had died in Ohio from drug overdoses in 2008 and 2009 than had died in the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. What the police chief, Charles Horner, did not report was that his addicted, drug-dealing son was one of those responsible for the overdose deaths. I was told by someone in a position to know that Horner’s  son brazenly dealt drugs in a restaurant directly across the street from the police station.

Typically, the local  media at first  turned a blind eye to the pill mills as chief Horner had to his son.  In the same downtown office building and on the same floor as the local radio station WNXT, one shady  out-of-town doctor opened a pill-mill office with patients from the tri-state region lining up like customers at  the popular DariCreme on 2nd Street. When a veteran WNXT newscaster learned  a  pill-mill down the hall had been raided,  its existence was news to him.

The doctors who indiscriminately prescribed and the people who owned and operated the pill-mills made  millions of dollars, and in doing so gave a boost to the  local economy, but at  what a cost. Oxycontin became so  widely used and abused that Portsmouth became known as the Oxycontin capital of the nation with one Portsmouth doctor reportedly writing more prescriptions than any other doctor in the country.  The Portsmouth pill-mills became so out of control in their pursuit of profits that they were finally raided by federal, state, and local federal law enforcement agencies. Some of the pill-mill owners and doctors  were arrested and convicted, bringing a reduction, though certainly not an end, to Oxycontin  addiction in Portsmouth.

The Buprenorphine (Suboxone) Stage

Above: The 3D molecular structure of the psychotropic buprenorphine (Suboxone) 

Much more savvy and public-relations oriented, and much better connected politically, the counseling centers in the Portsmouth area, were ready to take up the slack created by the closing of the pill-mills.  While some addicts have been helped by the centers,  profits and politics, not the Hippocratic oath and humanitarianism,  have been dominant in the   buprenorphine stage of Portsmouth’s drug history.  The cost of treating addicts in counseling centers has been paid for primarily  by the government and ultimately by the  taxpayers through Medicaid and since 2014 by the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have dubbed Obamacare. The cooperation and  collusion between pharmaceutical executives,  U.S. government officials, and unscrupulous professionals,  who were involved in a revolving door arrangement, account in part for the success of counseling centers in the Portsmouth area.

The Counseling Center, Inc. and the Community Counseling and Treatment Services (CCTS), operate clinics and halfway houses in Portsmouth where what they euphemistically call “clients” are treated. A key component of that  treatment of addicts now includes the psychotropic drug buprenorphine,  of which Suboxone became the most  controversial example.  Outselling even Viagra, Suboxone generated $1.5 billion in American  sales in 2010. Suboxone was developed not by an American pharmaceutical but by a British company,  Reckitt and Benckiser (RB), that specialized in health and household products, such as Clearasil and Lysol. The U.S. government spent $89 million to help RB develop and market Suboxone  on the grounds that it was safer than methadone. Safer? A  firefighter  whose son became fatally addicted to Suboxone remarked that  the difference between more potent drugs and Suboxine was like the difference between Budweiser and Bud Lite, meaning an alcoholic who switched to Bud Light was still a drunk and an addict who switched from Oxycontin to Suboxine was still an addict. Reckitt and Benckiser tried to  discourage addicts from abusing Suboxone by adding  nalaxone, an “abuse deterrent,” to it. If addicts crushed and injected Suboxone, the nalaxone was supposed to produce excruciating pain and nausea, but that apparently was  not enough to stop addicts from abusing it. Suboxone  is one of the drugs that has made overdoses rather than car accidents the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.

The U.S. government tried to control the abuse of Suboxone  by allowing only designated doctors to prescribe it and by limiting those doctors to thirty patients, but that number  was later raised to 100. In spite of these controls, the illegal use of Suboxone proliferated.  In 2011, the number of emergency room visits resulting from the illegal  use of Suboxone were well over 21,000, which was nearly five times what they had been five years earlier.  The doctors who prescribed Suboxone were far from simon-pure and some of  them had even been law-breakers. Rather than the Hippocratic, they appeared to have taken the hypocrite oath. Their primary objective was not to help the addicted but to get rich. As reported in the New York Times  (15 Nov. 2013), Dr. Robert L. DuPont, the first director of the national drug abuse institute, said that at  a recent meeting of the addiction medicine society, “the buprenorphine sessions were all packed with doctors who wanted to get in on the gold rush.” Too many of the doctors who became Suboxone  prescribers did so because they saw it as a bonanza for their faltering practices. Among them were doctors who had been sanctioned for drug addiction; or convicted of Medicaid fraud and of smuggling steroids from Mexico; or of conducting an “excessive number of invasive procedures”; or of failing to report a case of rape of a pediatric patient and of  having intercourse with patients in the office. The government’s screening process was clearly lax. In Ohio, it turned out that nearly 17 percent of the doctors given permission to prescribe  Suboxone had been previously disciplined by authorities whereas only 1.6 percent of Ohio doctors in general had been. If it was 17 statewide, it is easy to believe the percentage was even higher in Portsmouth, one of state’s most addicted cities.

The Treatment Services (CCTS) recently had its clinics in Portsmouth raided by police. According to channel WNXT, CCTS owner Paul Vernier and his employees had been engaged in trafficking in drugs, laundering money, and defrauding insurance companies and the U.S. government by forging prescriptions. In addition to searching for evidence in Vernier’s Portsmouth clinics, the police also used a search warrant to look for incriminating records and papers at his palatial hillside house in West Portsmouth. The other Portsmouth operation, Counseling Center, Inc., which has influential friends in the county government and in the state legislature, continues doing  business as usual in Portsmouth. The raiding of Vernier’s clinics removes Ed Hughes’ chief competition. Business for Counseling Center, Inc., with its motto “We believe in miracles,” is prospering and expanding, especially in the historic Boneyfiddle district.

When I began my blog River Vices in 2004, I said Mark Twain felt river cities had more than their share of vices and I thought that Portsmouth was no exception. I never knew a city that had more religion and less morality than Portsmouth, which calls to mind  Twain’s remark that “religion began when the first con man met the first fool.” The  slogan of Counseling Center, Inc., suggests Hughes might be using the Almighty to cloak his lucrative business in religion, as Vernier seems to have done by naming a real estate business he owns Blessed Realty, L.L.C. Blessed are the realtors in spirit for they shall profit from the First Commandment of Portsmouth politics (click here). That reminds me that Tammy Faye Bakker and her convicted televangelist husband Jim Bakker named their profitable non-profit televangelist racket PTL, short for "Praise the Lord!" That's what she used to exclaim tearfully and often on the Jim and Tammy Show, heavy mascara running down her rouged cheeks.  Incidentally, it may not be coincidental that Tammy Faye turned out to be addicted to Valium. Whether or not  Ed Hughes’s Counseling Center turns out to be a racket, he has become a multi-millionaire, according to Austin Leedom, the dean of Portsmouth's investigative reporters. What I will explore in my next post is the possibility that Hughes may be addicted not to any of the five drugs discussed above  but to the most powerful and pervasive drug in the world. What is that drug? Stay tuned.

Relevant Posts

"From Pill Mills to Counseling Centers" (click here).