Just another junkie? Or a mother's beloved son?

Because drugs are illegal, society tends to look at drug users (especially addicts) as bad people. This is reflected in callused attitudes by police, hospitals, courts, employers, bureaucrats, family members -- in short, almost anyone likely to have a position of power who might come in contact with the addict. Thus, when an addict runs into trouble, he will think twice about calling "The Other" (meaning those outside his community of fellow addicts) for assistance. To anyone who has known or worked with drug addicts this will come as no surprise. Calling for help means authorities, courts, interventions, and treatment, and for an addict this usually means walls of PAIN will come crashing down on him. Considering that addicts often become addicts out of a desire to avoid pain, it ought to be a no-brainer to understand why they would do almost anything to shun the terrible pain that society wants to visit on them in the guise of "help."  

This is not a pleasant topic to think about. But I have been thinking about it because I have been reading (thanks to M. Simon and Glenn Reynolds) about the awful suffering of Henry Granju and his mom Katie.

Let me disclose my bias. I think that if these drugs were legal (or at least medically legal), these situations could be dealt with in a much more rational and compassionate manner. I think that the callused treatment of drug addicts -- and the very rational fear of The Other that this generates -- would lesson, and lives would be saved.

Reading the awful story about what happened to Henry Granju, the first reaction of many people would be to say,

Why didn't he call 911?

After all, he was mugged during a drug transaction, and beaten so severely that it was a co-factor in his drug overdose and in his eventual death. But because of the way the system works, junkies don't call 911. Instead of calling for help, when bad stuff happens to them, they do what they always do when bad stuff happens to them: they turn to their drug of choice.  

It's a tragic situation. The cops see them as criminal trash, and so do most people. 

Years ago I worked on a criminal case in which a junkie got into a fight, and was beaten severely. He seemed OK initially, and went back to his local hangout (a sleazy bar) where he bragged (falsely) that he had gotten the better of the other guy. Later that night, his girlfriend (who most people would consider trash) noticed that he wasn't well, so she took him to the E.R. Naturally, hospital emergency rooms consider junkies the bane of their existence, because they want narcotic drugs, and they will do or say almost anything to get them. As this guy had fresh and old tracks, the primary goal of the E.R. personnel was simply to get him the hell out of their nice clean hospital. They sent him home with a bandage on his head and told the girlfriend to give him aspirin and to call them if things got worse. The two went home and slept most of the next day, and when the girlfriend got up in the afternoon, she noticed that he wasn't breathing normally and wasn't rousable the way he should have been. She finally called the hospital, and was told to look at the dressing, and see whether it was bloody. She did that and it wasn't bloody, and as she waited, he got worse. She called again and there was more stalling by the hospital, until finally someone on the phone thought to ask her how his eyes looked. When she said one pupil was much larger than the other they told her he needed to come in again. It seems they finally realized that the problem was not external bleeding, but internal bleeding, but it was too late. By the time the paramedics got to him, he had already died of a subdural hematoma.

Basically, the man died because no one cared. And no one cared because he was "just a junkie."

Anyway, what happened to Katie Granju's son Henry is a much longer and more complicated story, and the details are coming to light not because of any police investigation but because of Katie's determined research. My heart goes out to her, and I donated some money to the fund set up in her son's name.

To put it simply, Katie wants to know what happened, and the police have not helped. So she has had to use her impressive investigative skills to figure it out herself. I think the case reflects society's routine treatment of junkies as trash, and the understandable tendency of addicts to shun all authority figures. That, plus the fact that this kid was not dead on the scene but died over a month later resulted in the police never investigating this case thoroughly (much less treating it as a homicide).

Contrast that to the way fatal college alcohol overdoses are handled, and there is a double standard. This is not to say that the Dean of the college should have faced charges over student drinking himself to death, but had a kid shot up heroin and died, the issue of university culpability would have been less likely to have arisen. 

Whether there is criminal culpability for Henry Granju's death, I don't know. It is a complicated situation and the facts are less than clear.

It is fair to point out here that as a libertarian I wouldn't blame social hosts or bartenders for voluntary self-intoxication by others, even if that resulted in death. Nor would I blame liquor stores or distilleries, any more than I blame Big Tobacco for lung cancer deaths. Similarly, I can't blame anyone except a drug addict for a voluntary drug overdose. But what is voluntary? Most of the drug overdoses with which I have been familiar involved the classic scenario of an addict not knowing the strength of what he was getting. (No addict would deliberately take a fatal overdose unless the goal was suicide.) Here again, I think that if addicts knew the dose they were getting, many such overdoses would be avoidable.

In that respect, I think legalized drugs would save lives. And legalized drugs would make it less likely for a kid like Henry Granju to get beaten nearly to death over a drug deal, and more likely to call 911.

And more likely to get treatment of his choice by doctors who are not obligated to be de facto apparatchiks of the DEA.

Henry Granju did not deserve to be treated as a sleazy junkie, but as a human being, with a grieving mom.

MORE: To put my bottom line more succinctly, I think that if narcotic drugs had never been made illegal (or had  they been relegalized), Henry Granju would in all probability be alive today.

I see him as another tragic victim of the misguided war on drugs.

posted by Eric on 03.09.11 at 11:46 AM


You're right, but--police don't investigate any crimes thoroughly. The rare exceptions are prominent-victim or press-sensation cases. Only fictional police solve crimes, or even care to. Real cops only care about punching the clock, and getting away with punching you.

Her narrative of the sheriff's non-investigation isn't even slightly odd. Her and her readers' expressions of shock are signs of inexperience with real-world law enforcement. It's all S.O.P. It doesn't matter if the victim's a junkie or not. Cops don't do work. And if you try to get them to do some, they'll fuck you, because they can.

She's lucky they and the DA's office have only lied to the press about her. They usually do worse. They still might.

guy on internet   ·  March 9, 2011 2:13 PM

Thanks for the mention!


If people weren't so afraid of drugs, drugs would be less fearful.

M. Simon   ·  March 9, 2011 5:23 PM

Ten years ago I became mysteriously ill. I was constantly tired, weak and in pain. Though out my teens and twenties I had suffered from endometriosis and kidney stones, but those were always acute attacks lasting from 1-3 days but otherwise allowing me to act and function normally. That changed by the time I was 32. Then five years ago, shortly before I turned 35 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I entered the world of the chronic pain patient...a twilight realm where a person with a painfully disfiguring LIFELONG disease is treated by ER staff, pharmacy employees and lawmakers like a "junkie with a good excuse."

I've followed Katie Granju's writings for at least 9 years. I watched Henry grow up on her blog. I'm not new to this story nor to the Allison-Granju-Hickman families. And while I grieve for the loss I am continually appalled by repeated claims Katie and her followers make on FB calling for STRICTER DRUG CONTROLS.

By their logic, people like me who receive legal pain medications should sacrifice our finances and privacy so that the grudges I take don't wind up crushed, liquified and shot up between the toes of their kids.

Never mind that the DRUGS WHICH KILLED HENRY GRANJU WERE ALREADY ILLEGAL. He obtained them through theft and/or deception, paying for them by dealing other drugs and his body.

This is where the WOD mindset is leading. Instead of creating channels where people like Henry can receive honest treatment the thought process criminalizes people like me.

Katherine Coble   ·  March 9, 2011 8:42 PM

I watched the video remembrance of Henry and I saw a bunch of people looking for excuses. Divorce sent Henry into drugs. Enabling behavior from his parents and grandparents allowed him to avoid the consequences of his actions and prevented him from a possible recovery. The memorial video is an attempt by the family to avoid the consequences of their actions. When Henry was eulogized as a role model it made me sick to my stomach. Role model to whom?

rjsasko   ·  March 9, 2011 10:35 PM

I have to disagree at least partially, even if the drugs were legal, junkies would be looked down on in ERs.

Just as chronic alcoholics are even though their "drug" is legal.

Now, whether he would have been beaten if he went in to Costco to get his supersize smack fix, well, that's another story.

But a junkie and an alkie are both going to be treated differently from others by those who treat the injured.

Because those lifestyles invite physical ailments and even cause them and the health care workers are reduced to treating the symptoms, not the cause.

Veeshir   ·  March 10, 2011 11:42 AM

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