David Dolan: My Story

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My name is David Dolan and I am a recovered prescription pill and heroin addict. Prior to this period in my life, I spent ten years in active drug addiction. During this time, I witnessed the tragic overdose of one of my closest friends and lost two other close friends as a result of overdose. In sobriety, I have been very active in helping people recovering from addiction find their path.

In the past six months, at least 20 of the people I have been on the journey of recovery with have died as a result of relapse and overdose. These experiences are the reality of the disease of addiction. It is never easy to witness the untimely death of an individual, especially at such young ages.

In 2002, I was an honors student at Southern Regional High School in Stafford and was admitted into Rutgers University’s prestigious doctor of pharmacy program. While a sophomore in college, at only 19 years old, I awoke from a drug-induced sleep to find my roommate dead in the bed across from me. We had been partying the night before and when I awoke he was blue and vomit streamed from his mouth. My other roommates and I tried to give him CPR and then finally, after 5 minutes, called 911. We were told that my friend had passed away hours before emergency medical services arrived and that there was nothing we could have done. However, that didn’t change the fact that the reason we waited 5 minutes before calling 911 was because we were afraid of being arrested for having drugs in our apartment. My friend’s overdose sent me into a downward spiral that led to emotional distress and heavy drug use. This event and the guilt I felt fueled my addiction for many years.

Before entering recovery, I overdosed four times and was lucky to have survived. Often, the people I was using drugs with would not call for an ambulance for fear that they would be arrested. It is a miracle that I am alive today, but I’ve known many people who did not make it through such situations and live to tell the tale. I’ve known people who were thrown out of cars and apartments while overdosing by people who feared receiving drug charges. Those abandoned people are dead now, their families left in shambles, asking why?

Before entering recovery, I overdosed four times and was lucky to have survived.  Often, the people I was using drugs with would not call for an ambulance for fear that they would be arrested.  It is a miracle that I am alive today, but I’ve known many people who did not make it through such situations and live to tell the tale.  I’ve known people who were thrown out of cars and apartments while overdosing by people who feared receiving drug charges.  Those abandoned people are dead now, their families left in shambles, asking why?

Working closely within the addiction field it has become a very real fact for me that almost 6,000 people have died from drug overdoses in New Jersey since 2004 and that more than 700 people died from drug overdoses in New Jersey in 2009 alone. Something must be done to tackle this issue. In order to prevent future overdose deaths, I believe it is necessary to offer protection from arrest for those who call 911 in the event of an overdose. Senate Bill 851/Assembly Bill 578, also known as a “Good Samaritan law,” would help save lives and give those struggling with addiction a chance to find out that recovery is possible. I’m in no way condoning drug use, but I think everyone’s life has value and that saving lives should always take priority over punishing behavior. You can recover from drug addiction, but the opportunity for recovery is lost forever in a fatal overdose.

David Dolan: My Story [PDF]

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