A Bucket Brigade

walt-pickut Contributing Editor
Contributing Editor

Remember the old Bucket Brigade? I hope not. That was way before our time. It was a heroic—but usually futile—exercise in putting out fires. It made prevention seem even more urgent than it is today.

That was the day when the old saying made even more sense. It was the one that everybody taught their children.

“Don’t play with fire!”

But sometimes it was the grownups who started the fires, though not always on purpose. Remember the old story of Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow? One dark night that old milker kicked over Mrs. O’Leary’s kerosene lantern in the barn. A couple of hours later a huge swath of Chicago wound up all burned down.

So, it’s even worse to let a fire get out of control near something combustible, or worse yet, something explosive. There’s another old saying for that.

“Fire and gunpowder do not sleep well together.”

This week the Jamestown Gazette brings our readers a new bucket brigade that’s putting out fires that are being set alight across the country and here at home in Chautauqua County. And what is happening here is also happening across the region covered by our readers in Warren County, PA, and next door in our Southern Tier neighbor, Cattaraugus County. Nobody is fireproof.

The fire that is spreading is opioid addiction. It’s fast and deadly. We are its fuel and, paradoxically, we are also the Smokey Bear who can put it out. As Smokey always says, “Remember…only you can prevent forest fires!”

Fuel for a fire is combustible. That means vulnerable to the flame. Beware the temptation to say, “I can’t get addicted,” or “I know my friend is above that sort of thing,” or “That can’t happen in my family!” Nobody is guaranteed to be fireproof.

Neurologists now know that about 10 percent of the population will become powerfully addicted with the very first dose of an opioid or the first sip of alcohol. Nobody knows who is vulnerable. There is no test for that susceptibility except the first dose. It’s not a test I would advise.

And beyond that, if a doctor prescribes a powerful pain killer for a terrible pain, the pain and its prescription can last long enough for addiction to start smoldering beneath the surface of awareness and then burst into flame when it might be too late.

Strong pain killers do not always do that, though. Most often, they do their job and then fade away with the dwindling pain as you heal.

Then there’s the “feelgood” effect that can come with the medicine. It can be hard to let it go. That fire can spread in many ways and it can be hard to put out.

This week, we bring you the good news of a powerful new bucket brigade bringing us new ways to douse the flames and new encouragement to support them in their work.

Fighting the spreading forest fire of addiction is the work of an entire community. Just like the smoke-eating firefighters who douse actual house fires, drown real barn fires, and wage wars against brushfires, addiction fighters need our support, too.

Learn what makes one vulnerable, learn how to prevent the fire, and learn how you can be one who can save the life of someone near to you. Consider it the same as learning CPR. You’ll never know when it might come in handy.

Read all about it here, and enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.