Ed Buck called his apartment “The Gates of Hell,” and for two men who died there, wallpaper with red flames and skulls was likely their last vision on Earth.
On one living room wall in the lair of the Democratic donor, a mural with a huge black spiderweb across a dark purple background seemed to foretell what was to come.
This was where Gemmel Moore, 26, and Timothy Dean, 55, overdosed on methamphetamine while lying on a white mattress, witnesses testified Thursday at the trial in which Buck is charged with providing fatal doses of the drug. If convicted in either of the overdose deaths, Buck faces a minimum of 20 years in prison.
Both men were dead by the time paramedics arrived, victims of a deadly “party and play” game. A photo of Moore’s corpse was displayed on a large-screen television, his eyes staring blankly into space. A plastic tube was inserted into one nostril where a stream of blood ran out and coated the side of his head. A cross was tattooed on one shoulder and the words “Misunderstood” were on his chest.
Federal prosecutors displayed a series of photographs to jurors Thursday, showing a nightmarish sanctum in which Buck allegedly paid a stream of gay black men to participate in S&M activities. This involved shooting up methamphetamine and GHB with painful sexual activities, such as lighting genitals on fire, according to testimony.
Jurors on the third day of the trial over the two-drug deaths were able to hear the 66-year-old Buck speak for the first time in a 911 call placed for Moore in 2017.
The United States saw a record number of drug-related deaths in 2020. The total exceeded 93,000, which was up 29 percent from 2019, according to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2020 spike—the largest ever recorded—was largely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and the legal restrictions it provoked. But drug-related deaths already were rising before anyone had heard of the coronavirus, not just despite but also because of the government’s efforts to prevent people from using psychoactive substances.
The new CDC numbers confirm the folly of relying on supply control measures to reduce drug fatalities. Those policies are based on the premise that drug availability by itself causes drug-related deaths, which is clearly not true in light of the social, economic, and psychological factors that plausibly explain last year’s surge. In any case, attacking production and distribution through legal restrictions, interdiction, seizures, and arrests rarely has a significant or lasting impact on prices or availability. Worse, those interventions drive substitutions that make drug use deadlier, as illustrated by the rise of illicit fentanyl and the crackdown on prescription pain medication, which accelerated the upward trend in opioid-related deaths.
The United States recorded over 81,000 drug overdose deaths in a 12-month stretch, the worst year-long total reported in American history.
The U.S. has long been struggling to combat the opioid epidemic, but experts say that the total between May 2019 and May 2020, published in a CDC report last week, can be at least partially attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
Specifically, experts attribute the total to the pandemic’s disruption of in-person treatment and recovery when it began to spread nationwide in March. Americans who suffered from drug use were also increasingly likely to use drugs alone once they entered quarantine and were kept away from others, upping the risk that an overdose would prove fatal since nobody was available to contact already-burdened emergency services, the CDC report outlines.
Experts also said that already-lethal drugs themselves have become even more dangerous; since the pandemic caused supply problems for cartels and dealers, they mixed extremely potent drugs like fentanyl into heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Davidson was part of a surge in overdose deaths that hit Kentucky this spring. May was its deadliest month for overdoses in at least five years. At the end of August, the state had seen almost as many overdose deaths as it had in all of 2019.
It is not alone. National data is incomplete, but available information suggests U.S. drug overdose deaths are on track to reach an all-time high. Addiction experts blame the pandemic, which has left people stressed and isolated, disrupted treatment and recovery programs, and contributed to an increasingly dangerous illicit drug supply.
Stay home, save lives. This is the mantra many Californians have repeated and lived by for the last 10 months as their governor instituted some of the most draconian measures in the country. Watching their economy turn to shambles as thousands of businesses close their doors forever is making some folks grow weary of the COVID-19 lockdowns, and rightfully so.
Earlier this month, the city of San Francisco issued an order shutting down outside play for kids at playgrounds. Seriously. Even dating is banned unless it’s done masked, outside, and kiss free.
According to the order, residents can “meet with 1 other person who doesn’t live with you” to take a walk, “hang out at the park,” and play low-contact sports, such as golf, tennis, pickleball and bocce ball. However, couples cannot share equipment.
It’s utterly ridiculous.
Countless San Franciscan businesses have closed their doors forever and the city, whose population is nearly 900,000 has seen less than 200 coronavirus deaths since the beginning of the pandemic — 173 to be exact.
While folks aren’t dying from COVID-19 very often in the area, there is definitely a spike in deaths, and it is staggering. A record 621 people as of December 19 have died of drug overdoses in San Francisco. That is 360% more deaths than COVID-19.
Center for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield testified in a Buck Institute webinar that suicides and drug overdoses have surpassed the death rate for COVID-19. Redfield argued that lockdowns and lack of public schooling constituted a disproportionally negative impact on young peoples’ mental health.
“We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID,” he said.
Roughly 146,000 people have died from COVID or COVID-related causes in the U.S., according to CDC data.
The most recent publicized federal data records 48,000 deaths from suicide and at least 1.4 million attempts in 2018. In 2019, almost 71,000 people died from drug overdoses.
Where Redfield obtained his data is unknown, although a doctor at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, CA claimed the facility has “seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.” He did not say how many deaths occurred, or whether the statement was exaggerated for emphasis.