In an effort to better understand the nature of addiction, WIVB-TV reporter Rich Newberg presents a series of reports featuring addicts speaking intimately about their drug habits and how their lives are controlled by substance abuse.
Out of Control
(:00 - 8:38) Air Date: June 29, 1989
These reports by Rich Newberg and Mike Mombrea, Jr. are unique in that some addicts allow themselves to be recorded as the illicit drugs enter their bloodstreams and take effect. The viewer learns first hand why it is so difficult for these individuals to straighten out their lives.
Delving even further into the dark side of drug abuse, Newberg and Mombrea record addicts Julie and Randy as they suffer through the pain of withdrawal. They are documented desperately seek help at the county hospital only to be told they must come back in two days because there are no beds available.
During their two day ordeal, Julie and Randy turn to alcohol in an attempt to steady their nerves. They also take part in a group therapy session, candidly sharing the feelings they are experiencing. They long for “a nice, healthy, normal life.” Two weeks after detoxification, the couple appears to be energized and eager to continue on the road to recovery. They are determined to beat the odds, which are generally against addicts leaving detox centers.
Living on Drug Row
(8:45 - 19:09) Air Dates: May 9, 10, 11, 1989
Reporter Rich Newberg and photographer Scott Alexander explore the ease in which heroin and cocaine are obtainable within Buffalo’s inner city. Citizens bemoan the fact that when a low level dealer is arrested, another fills his place almost immediately.
Drug abuse is so prevalent in the city’s housing projects, that children are exposed to hypodermic needles where they play.
We meet two five year old girls whose mothers are deeply concerned that their daughters might suffer long term effects due to their contact with discarded needles. One child drank the contents of a syringe. The other girl pricked her finger on a needle.
A cocaine dealer speaking candidly says five thousand dollars a day can be made on the streets. He adds that “young kids” are recruited to sell because there is less risk to the dealer. He claims it is easy for those arrested to “beat” the family court system.
Saving the Kids
(19:15 - 23:08) November 15, 1989
A shortage of long-term drug treatment centers and clinics in Western New York requires families of means to send their addicted children out of the region for help.
Rich Newberg presents the case of Matthew, outwardly the “All American Boy” from suburban Amherst, New York, who hid his drug problems from his loved ones until he became alienated from his family. Matthew attended one of the area’s most highly rated high schools, but disclosed that drug abuse “before, during, and after school” was a hidden but festering problem.
Matthew’s father was in denial until his son completely cut himself off from the family. Matthew, along with about a dozen other Amherst children who were abusing drugs, became enrolled in the Straight Program in Plymouth, Michigan. The success rate is seventy-five percent and relies on a combination of rigid exercise and an open sharing of feelings to wean teenagers off of drugs.
Matthew’s program lasted twenty-two months and cost $12,000 dollars. Most of the drug treatment programs in the Buffalo area at the time lasted twenty-eight days. While programs like the one in Plymouth offered hope to upscale families who could afford the tuition, there appeared to be a sense of hopelessness in the inner city, where drug dealers ruled the streets and controlled the lives of those who became dependent on them to feed their addictions.