Man overdoses while driving, crashes car

Posted at 5:21 PM, Dec 31, 2015
and last updated 2016-01-01 09:59:53-05

What looked like a small fender-bender nearly cost a western New York man his life.

Police say at about 8:30 in the morning on New Year's Eve, a man overdosed on heroin and crashed his car through a pole.

The passenger of the car is a recovering addict himself. That man, Benjamin Rupert, pulled the man from the pickup truck. A nurse who lived nearby administered CPR. First responders resuscitated him using Narcan.

"He was turning blue," Rupert recalled. "Twitching." Rupert's co-worker, who had just picked him up for work, was twitching. Shortly after, the co-worker overdosed on heroin.

"It's pretty hard," Rupert said. "Life is definitely more beautiful than this kind of stuff. Today's his birthday."

Police said the man who overdosed, still unnamed at this time, spent hours at the hospital, and was to be arrested.

Rupert said after struggling with a heroin addiction of his own for years, it took an arrest last year to get him clean.

"You're poisoning yourself to make yourself feel better," Rupert said. "It's wild that we go through all these contortions just to not feel like yourself for a couple hours."

Rupert stressed that in his point of view, alcohol and weed are "gateway drugs."

The crash comes as startling numbers come from the Erie County Health Department.

In 2014, there were 128 heroin related deaths reported in Erie County. That number soared to 188 in January through the summer of 2015. It's expected to jump past 270 when the rest of the year's numbers come in, according to health officials.

Between mid-2014 and October of 2015, about 2,000 private citizens in Erie County were trained to use life-saving Narcan. That is on top of 2,500 law enforcement personnel and more than 500 first responders.

Often when an addict relapses, it's deadly.

After a quick recovery in a clinic, "by using at the same rate prior to when they were admitted, and they overdose," according to Monica Farrar, a counselor.

Dan Smith, a counselor and recovering addict himself, says that a stigma prevents people from asking for help.

"We do not allow in our society, you don't like differences and we don't allow people the ability to become better," Smith explained.

One major step often missed in the recovery process is the stress of what to do after a patient has stopped using drops.

"What you're going to do after you're clean, what's going to replace it," Smith said. For Smith, running has become a vital part of his life.

Health experts state that the holidays often see a surge of addicts in recovery falling back with their own crowd and using it again. Because of that, there is often a surge of drug-related deaths in December.

Rupert warned, "addicts don't give themselves a chance to give themselves to clean and see how life can be sober."

"Just cause it's a holiday, don't go out there messing around, cause stuff like this (accident) can happen.

Amherst is holding a meeting at its Town Hall on Wednesday, January 6th. Police officials and experts will be on hand.

The Erie County Health Department holds a Narcan training at least once a month, starting with two trainings in the first week of January of 2016. Anyone with questions can call 716-858-7690.




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