June 25, 2014

An addict's story: drugs, heartbreak and the loss of children

PLATTSBURGH — Numbing the grief from his mother's death, drugs gave Andrew Turpenning an immediate escape from reality.

"It stopped all the pain," the 33-year-old told the Press-Republican during an interview in Clinton County Jail.

"I wanted to die, and drugs was an easy way out."

In the three years since he started using, instead of diminishing with time, that pain has multiplied and has been thrust upon his five children.

Three of them are in foster care and the other two live with their mothers, Turpenning said.


His youngest was born May 7.

Turpenning and the child's mother, Harley Meddaugh, 23, have both been incarcerated since October 2013, when they were arrested together in their South Catherine Street apartment in the City of Plattsburgh.

Turpenning's 5-year-old daughter saw officers taking him away in handcuffs, he said.

He was found with 84 bags of heroin, more than a half ounce of crack cocaine and some powdered cocaine.


More than half the inmates at Clinton County Jail have substance-abuse problems, according to Maura Alix, a senior mental-health clinician who also treats addiction. 

She splits her time between the jail and the Clinton County Mental Health and Addiction Services Clinic in Plattsburgh.

"Opiates are big. Painkillers, heroin," she said.

When inmates see her for the first time, they almost always request prescription medication that the jail doesn't permit — clonazepam, benzodiazepine and others.

In most cases, medication isn't the best answer, she said, as inmates are simply looking for an alternative to streets drugs so they can continue to avoid facing the same problems that plagued them before they were arrested. 

Before Turpenning was transferred to state prison, he was Alix's client, seeing her sometimes twice a week.

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