Recently, some articles were published surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd and his reliance to painkillers. Sadly, Floyd suffered from addictions like a great majority of Americans do and the stigma around that has bled into the legal case for the man who took his life; Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin. Defense attorneys have tried to paint a picture of Floyd’s dependency being a character flaw; something those of us in the recovery world strongly disagree with.
As we all are probably aware, Floyd’s death sent shockwaves across America and is signified as one of the primary triggers behind the Black Lives Matter movement. He had been suffocated by Chauvin after being placed on the ground and trapped under the officer’s knee. Floyd’s autopsy later revealed that he had fentanyl and methamphetamines in his system, which is now getting addressed during Chauvin’s trial.
In a recent article published by USA Today, several prominent recovery advocates were interviewed regarding this defense tactic and the general stigmas that surround minorities and addiction. Andre Johnson, CEO of the Detroit Recovery Program, spoke out about the harm these types of assertions can cause.
“This Chauvin defense really sheds light on how people of color, Black people, are treated when they have an addiction,” Johnson told the site. “What they are failing to do is treat George Floyd as a whole person. The fact that he used drugs is not why he died. He died because he was a big Black man and a white man did not value his life.”
The article went on to call out how minority groups often have less access to treatment and aren’t always looked at through the same lens as white addicts. Data provided by USA Today revealed that Americans appear to be using drugs like heroin and fentanyl at the same rate, but the amount of opioid-related deaths is much larger among communities of color.
Floyd’s longtime girlfriend, Courteney Ross, recently testified at the trial and provided a very personal account of the addiction struggles that they were both going through. This was something that was tied to a chronic pain condition and there were efforts to get clean. But without the resources to enter a proper recovery program, they both couldn’t successfully ween off their habit.
Stanford University behavioral sciences professor Keith Humphrey was also quoted in the piece and provided a strong concluding statement to this tragic situation.
“Even if he was addicted, he didn’t deserve to be killed,” Humphrey added. “It shows the devaluation of the lives of people with drug problems. Police take into custody millions of intoxicated people every year without this happening.”