By: Forrest Cook
You’ve heard of the opioid epidemic. In Texas alone 1,402 people died from overdose deaths involving opioids in 2018. The Texas Medical Association has reported that preliminary data from 2019 shows an estimated rise in overdose deaths by 4.6% across the U.S. of course, that was all before the global pandemic.
The Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program operates in conjunction with local authorities nationwide (including Dallas County Fire Departments, and DEA) in an effort to mobilize a proactive overdose response across the country. From March to May of 2020, (the months following stay-at-home orders varied by state) the ODMAP registered a 17.59% increase in suspected overdose submissions from participating counties.
Among those statistics was DFW’s own Zach Abrego, who’s rechristened himself as Zach Rehab on account of having checked-in to a rehabilitation clinic 11 times in the past. To a person unfamiliar with addiction that number may seem wild. But that notion takes the premise that multiple relapses mean that treatments are ineffective. It may in part be that same lack of understanding spurring on the opioid and drug crisis in the first place.
In reality, that 11 symbolizes a person who has come to terms with his identity as a self-described gutter-junky. He is one who can’t resist, but still he knows that in order to get clean he’ll need a literal, physical separation from drugs and alcohol.
Unfortunately, Zach overdosed on a fake Oxycontin early last year before he could get any help. It turned out to be made of fentanyl, which is a powerful synthetic opioid said to be 50-100 times more potent than morphine.
“The crazy thing is, I was just taking Kratom to alleviate my back pain. It wasn’t a way of getting high. And I relapsed and almost died. Luckily, I’m here.”
Zach threw his back out at work, and made the decision to try the controversial organic opioid substitute, Kratom, for the pain. For some, kratom can be a helpful solution to avoiding withdrawal symptoms. For Zach it turned into a dangerous gateway.
“The problem is the moment I start forgetting that I’m a drug addict is the moment that I’m getting closer to relapse.” He says that he’s fallen into that delusion a couple of times before.
Zach’s not alone in that. It’s estimated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that 40%-60% of drug addicts relapse after recovery. Some accounts cite only a 20% recovery rate, and one study even suggested 90% of opioid users will relapse after treatment.
That’s exactly what the new song “Overdose” is about. It was written to shed light on the pain and suffering addicts go through on a daily basis. Zach like many others has found himself getting high in the past when he didn’t even want to.
“Countless times I’ve driven to a dealer’s house while telling myself for 40 minutes straight ‘just turn around Zach, go home.’ It’s like I’m on autopilot. It’s fucked up bro. Addiction is sickeningly powerful”
The song is part of a two-package deal, with “Why I drink”—both of which are available on Zach Rehab’s bandcamp page.
Zach says he always wanted to write and record an album by himself just to prove that he could. So on the two Zach Rehab tracks, he is heard playing every instrument. It’s a form of therapy for him. So while being an addict may define him to an extent, it isn’t all that he is.
“The first time I ever jammed, I was 16 years old. My friend and I played a shitty cover of Blitzkrieg Bop by The Ramones. From that point on, I knew I wanted to play live music for the rest of my life,” he says. “So that is also very much a part of me.”
Maybe he’ll get the chance again soon. Zach has another project in the works called Hard Detox. They put out their debut EP, The Great Cleansing, last summer and were recently nominated by punkrockmag.com for their “Good Shit Awards – Best of 2020”.
“It’s been good,” Zach says of the project. “It’s just one of those things. We are dying to play a live show and we can’t. It’s different to hear it then to actually feel our energy on stage.”
Hard Detox is currently in the process of writing a follow-up EP.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Zach won’t revert to his self-destructive ways. He goes to support groups and attends a 12-step program that helps him to feel solidarity with others who suffer from the same disease, and fight the same daily battles. Zach’s also gotten involved in an overdose awareness program distributing Narcan to those that may need it.
“An opioid overdose puts you in respiratory arrest,” Zach explains. “You quit breathing, and then the Narcan chemicals attack the opioid receptors to expel the opioid and the person can breathe again.”
He says that distributing Narcan is the complete role-reversal to suffering actively in addiction. He believes that charitable work along those lines will go a long way for his own recovery.
Checkout Zach Rehab’s tracks on Bandcamp at https://zachrehab.bandcamp.com/releases