This is The Reason Heroin Gave One Woman a Second Chance at Life

This is The Reason Heroin Gave One Woman a Second Chance at Life, Lynn R Webster, MD, @LynnRWebsterMD

Detective Justin Albauer, who works for the Martin County Sheriff’s Department in Florida, pulled over Brianna Byrnes’s car in August 2015. That is a day that Byrnes will always remember.

A Second Chance At Life 

In a poignant CNN story, we can read about what happened. Detective Albauer arrested Byrnes. She served time in jail, and a second chance at life emerged.

Brianna had two bags of heroin in her car when she was stopped. She says the heroin was there to allow her to get through the night without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Brianna was like most people who become dependent on heroin, in that her main focus was to avoid withdrawal rather than to get high.

Because Detective Albauer knew of the heroin, he had to arrest her. This is the law. People get arrested for heroin possession every day.

The difference in this case was how Brianna was treated during the booking process. Briana believes that she was treated with respect and compassion. She told a local reporter that Detective Albauer checked in on her to see how she was doing after she was discharged.

Briana said it was one of the few times she did not feel ashamed or dirty. It was apparent that Detective Albauer cared about Byrnes as a human being, not just as a statistic.

The reason this story is important is that Brianna had been trying to get help for some time. But, without health insurance, no treatment program would accept her.

Arrest = Help 

Ironically, because of her arrest, she was eligible for treatment through drug courts. Having to go to jail to access potential lifesaving treatment suggests there is something wrong with our healthcare system.

Brianna Byrnes’s story of entering treatment and having a second chance is not unheard of, but the attitude and compassion exhibited by the detective were refreshing.

Brianna is recovering, and her future looks promising. She’s grateful to Detective Albauer for his intervention so that she could begin the recovery process.

Why Opioid Addiction Is Such a Problem

Most people with opioid addiction are not as fortunate. Addiction is a disease that has been criminalized. It imparts a social stigma that prevents people from accessing care when they need it.

Many people are trapped when they have an addiction. Most have no money, and so they can’t get treatment. Unfortunately, they often must be arrested, as Brianna was, to get treatment.

Of course, once someone is arrested for drug possession, that stain on an individual’s record will make it more difficult to find employment with health insurance. The life of a person convicted of a drug crime is forever changed. They have barriers that don’t exist for others. For many people, rehab is not a gateway to a normal life.

The resources for people with addiction are limited and not as timely as needed. That means people with addiction are caught in a web of destruction.

Ultimately, we need to provide healthcare for everyone who seeks it without involving the judicial system. However, until that happens, we should be thankful there are officers like Detective Albauer who seems to understand that, sometimes, people just need help and understanding.


Purchase my book The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain Is Really Like and Why It Matters to Each of Us (available on Amazon) or read a free excerpt here.

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Copyright 2016, Lynn Webster, MD




  1. Sherrie Harris on September 13, 2016 at 12:29 am

    Thst was very helpful. Glad he cared enough to check on her. Glad she got help.

  2. Peabody Slim on September 22, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Really look at the woman of course he cared. If this was s man they could give two shits about you.

  3. AngelSeattle on February 4, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    When opiates were legal in this country’s earlier years, addicts weren’t forced outcasts living on the fringe edge of society. This allowed them continued love and support a shot at a normal life. As we dehumanize stigmatize and generally outcast different subsets of our society, our collective heart becomes darker more uncaring. Each of us individually spreading as much love compassion and kindness as we can with all who cross our path is the major way we can impact positive change.

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