Methadone maintenance leads to horrifying death in jail

David Stojcevski’s horrifying death in jail, explained – Vox – Updated by German Lopez on September 29, 2015

I didn’t realize withdrawals from opioids could be fatal and this makes me even angrier at some self-righteous doctors  who have no qualms cutting us off. They foolishly believe that stopping the opioid drug is more essential to our welfare than anything else.

Prior to his jail stint, Stojcevski was being treated for his drug addiction with methadone, Xanax, and Klonopin to stave off withdrawal symptoms, which can be deadly.

Even a basic knowledge of these drugs and addiction suggests that suddenly yanking Stojcevski off of his medication would cause withdrawal — and that’s exactly what happened when jail officials didn’t give him the drugs.  

Over 17 days, Stojcevski displayed typical withdrawal symptoms. He didn’t eat, likely due to withdrawal-induced nausea. He shook and appeared to experience seizures. He seemed to hallucinate, reenacting a previous fight with an inmate. On his last two days, he laid on the floor, shaking and in clear distress.

During all this time, staffers rarely tended to Stojcevski’s needs, even though his cell was under surveillance 24 hours a day. As he lay on the floor shaking and not eating his food over 48 hours, no one showed up to help until the very end. But it was too late — he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Incarcerating someone who can’t pay a fine is also tantamount to debtors’ prisons, which lock people up for failing to pay a debt. Not only are debtors’ prisons unconstitutional, but they’re also unfair to poor people and impose extraordinary harms, the American Civil Liberties Union explained:

There are also signs that jail staff simply didn’t know how to treat an inmate with medical needs like Stojcevski. As two mental health experts told Local 4, Stojcevski was clearly suffering from a medical condition even as jailers did nothing to care for him.

One sign the jail was unprepared for a case like Stojcevski’s: Staff obviously misdiagnosed him. Jailers put him in the mental health ward for mental instability and erratic behavior.

But the staff knew Stojcevski was taking drug addiction medication, and he was obviously suffering from withdrawal. As Donna Rockwell, a clinical psychologist, put it to Local 4, “anybody who even has two minutes of training would know that.” That jail staff apparently saw Stojcevski’s symptoms and did nothing suggests they lacked adequate training or acted negligently.

Macomb County officials, however, insist they followed “proper procedure” in the case. But if that’s really true, maybe the problem is the procedure is inadequate in the first place — and something is wrong with how the county jail deals with people in clear need of medical help.  



8 thoughts on “Methadone maintenance leads to horrifying death in jail

  1. Unhinged

    I’ve seen this horrendous video. Basically, he was tortured. he needed medical care, and he was poor. Instead, he died a slow, painful, torturous death. What will they call it when we die?
    Also, see: cardiac adrenal pain syndrome.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. DREW5000G

    Damn that is scary considering the amount of times i have been withdrawing from heroin, I know how bad it gets, luckily,i guess, prisons over here have to and do help addicts to detox. If you are on low dose methadone they keep u on it if sentence is less than six months i think it is.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Doc Anonymous

    The guards in the jails are sworn officers of the law who are supposed to protect people. They clearly ignored Mr. Stojcevski was suffering medical issues. We have also seen videos over the past few years of police officers standing by and doing nothing when people who are being detained or arrested are shot or injured.

    NOW….one of the basic duties of ALL police officers is to serve as basic FIRST RESPONDERS. They will numerous times be the first on the scene in personal injury situations. All too often we are seeing these purported first responder, protecters of the people be the very last to respond to clear personal injury situations.

    The same disdain is too often directed at people who suffer with chronic pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Our society is barbaric when it comes to suffering – as long as it’s someone else’s.

      I notice that not a single person in the anti-opioid brigade suffers from pain. That’s the worst bias of all, yet no one ever says anything about it


  4. Payne Hertz

    They hate us for our freedoms.

    I was put through cold turkey narcotic withdrawal at the VA with no warning whatsoever, at a time when I was seeing one of their therapists for suicidal depression, and despite the fact I have high blood pressure and diabetes. I suffer from an undiagnosed problem which causes random muscle cramps which are excruciatingly painful. Going into withdrawal caused whole body cramping which lasted over a week and is hands down the most horrific pain I have ever experienced in this life. To this day I have not recovered from the devastation this had on my health and I am probably “lucky” I didn’t die myself.

    The therapist himself set me up for this by telling me they were going to treat my pain more aggressively, only to be bushwhacked–there is no other word for it–by the pain specialist I had been forced to file a complaint against due to his abusive behavior. I had been misled into thinking I would be seeing someone else. He wasted no time in exacting his revenge by distorting the results of a urine opioid screen which had been obtained without my consent to make it look like I wasn’t taking all my drugs. He lied and put words in my mouth to make it sound like I was hoarding or diverting drugs. I was then denied a refill on my meds and put into cold turkey withdrawal and they refused me any treatment to deal with it.

    This doctor did this with the full cooperation of my primary care and his colleagues on the pain management team–several of whom who had urged me to file a complaint against him because they knew what a POS he was. But they backed him up when the time came to do what was morally correct.

    I’d like to say this was an isolated case, but the patient advocate let slip that this doctor was responsible for over 50 percent of the complaints at that VA. I have heard far, far worse tales of abuse in the years I spent as a contact person for my chronic pain support group.

    The worst part is knowing that this guy has weaseled his way into a position of prominence in chronic pain advocacy and has a large amount of influence over those deciding the future of pain care in this country. He is not a member of PROP, but he is far more dangerous in many ways, as he is not so easily dismissed as those loons are. He is the “good drug cop” to PROP’s “bad drug cop.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Such horrific tales are far too common and would not be tolerated in any other medical specialty except pain management.

      It’s almost as though pain management is now considered part of the criminal justice system, not the medical system.



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