The blame game: Addiction is destroying our communities

In 2011, Big Cregg, who helped found Positive Directions, won a Jefferson Award for his outstanding work in the Bayview Hunters Point Community meeting people where they’re at in the addiction and recovery process and helping them find safety and change. Positive Directions Equals Change is a peaceful, open minded place for people in the neighborhood looking for support in drug and alcohol recovery.

by Big Cregg 

The proliferation of fentanyl in inner cities, including San Francisco, has brought death and addiction. Who or what is to blame? Some say it is America’s insatiable consumer demand for illicit drugs and the constant flow of our guns, which arm the cartels. Others say it is the pharmaceutical industry. 

Either way, addiction is destroying communities of color and the disenfranchised through the cycle of fentanyl, Narcan and buprenorphine, all for the benefit of the pharmaceutical industry, leaving treatment deserts. 

Fentanyl and crystal methamphetamine, toxic synthetic opioids, do not come from the poppy fields in Columbia or Afghanistan: They are manufactured right here in America. As reported by the San Francisco Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 699 people died from overdoses in 2020.

Big Cregg with Cedric from Westside Community Health making change in Bayview Hunters Point!

Further noted, there has been an increase in the number of overdoses prevented by Narcan, a medication commonly sprayed up the nose to reverse an opioid overdose. The irony is there were more overdoses than Coronavirus deaths. The beneficiaries are the pharmaceutical companies profiting off our tragedies. 

So, we have created a system: Use fentanyl, then overdose, we bring you back with Narcan. After a while you get on methadone or buprenorphine. It’s a vicious cycle. And that is the blame game. 

We need on-demand recovery and treatment back before San Francisco becomes a giant trap house for addicts.

Even though the mainstream narrative equates this epidemic with drug cartels, the manmade substances contaminate street drugs sold illegally. This cycle offers seamless continuity with the most shameful episodes in our community.

As a service provider who has been in the trenches for over 25 years, I have never seen anything this devastating – not even the crack cocaine epidemic was this bad. The consequences are people of color living in tents in the streets, large numbers of people of color with mental health issues untreated on the streets and the police looking the other way. 

The community wants addicts accountable, not comfortable. I have seen the loss of over 25 culturally specific drug treatment programs in San Francisco. These programs were closed due to lack of funding, technical assistance and support, and the City seemingly turned its back on the culture which made San Francisco special as a mecca for people who wanted to get clean and sober. 

Fast forward two decades later and the City is a place to get high without consequences. We need on-demand recovery and treatment back before San Francisco becomes a giant trap house for addicts. This issue deserves the highest level of consideration and strategy to overcome the negative consequences. More treatment modalities and options are needed in our communities of color.

Positive Directions Equals Change, a community-based organization in the Bayview, offers support groups each day of the week. The schedule is pictured and all are welcome. Contact us at: