No, Suboxone Does Not Make You a Racist Murderer

By Dillon Murphy 06/27/15

Does the fact that Dylann Roof had the drug on his person back in February have anything to do with his horrific crime?

Dylann Roof
Photo via

Dylann Roof, the chief suspect in the mass murders that took place at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was taking Suboxone. He was charged with felony possession of the drug back in February. It was not prescribed and one can only assume, at this point, that he was taking it to get high. Was he on the Suboxone when he committed his act of terrorism? Nobody knows. Does the fact that he had the drug on his person back in February have anything to do with his horrific crime? Absolutely not.

The fact that this is being speculated at all is so deeply twisted that as much as I want to try and find it funny, I simply cannot. Are we that afraid of having to take a serious look at abolishing the Second Amendment rather than the culture of hate that continues to find its way into the “land of the free”? CBS News felt the need to link the drug and Roof’s inexcusable actions in a report in an effort to “shed some light on Roof’s past behavior.” Robert Harrington of the site Info Wars felt compelled to tell his readers that “violent outbursts and aggressive acts of rage can be experienced while under the influence of Suboxone.” The same statement can be made about being under the influence of Jack Daniels, the KKK or even God as you understand Him. It is absurd and it is troubling that we are so desperate not to see this nasty and brutal hate crime for what it really is.

I was on Suboxone for many years. Roof was 21 years old. I started using heroin at 25. It was suddenly very accessible in the late 1990s. “Heroin chic” was the buzz phrase and Kurt Cobain was who I wanted to look like. Then I used it on-and-off for four years finally graduating to full-blown junkie for the remaining year and a half. That’s five and a half years. I was on Suboxone for nine years after that. I have written about it twice now for this site and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would have to write the words: "Suboxone did not make me a racist."

Suboxone did not make me hate. Suboxone did not make me do anything but stay off heroin and keep the withdrawals of opiate addiction at bay. I managed to get off of it and stay off of it but I know plenty of people that are still on it and doing just fine. Had any of them ever expressed a hatred toward black people to me, as Roof did to his friends, I would not tolerate it. I would tell that person to go fuck themselves. If they had wanted my friendship and respect they would have lost it all in that very moment. I would tell them to continue their journey in recovery, take their medications as prescribed and that it’s really too bad how stupid and ignorant they are. 

Since I have been back in NYC from Wyoming, almost a year and a half now, I have been able to stay sober and busy. I have not given Suboxone any real thought since I managed to get off of it. In that year and a half though, race relations and idiot white men with guns have dominated the headlines in ways that seem to only get worse, suggesting that the country is in a very bad way.

The fact that racism still exists in this country was jaw-droppingly clear to me during my six months in Wyoming. I met grown men and women at the bars there that would use the "n-word" freely and openly. More often than not, it was the go-to adjective used to describe the President.

Now, I was born and raised in New York City. I have liberal, middle-class parents and the only sense of hate they encouraged in me was for double parkers. New York City in the 1980s was a very different place. It was crack cocaine and it was nasty. The term “wilding” was created to justify arresting more than two black kids hanging out at a time. I was mugged twice in front of our apartment. You couldn’t even enter Central Park after dark without being attacked. Despite all that—and despite becoming a full on alcoholic and addict—it never crossed my mind to hate anyone because of their skin color.

So, while I was in Wyoming and the racism was up close and personal, it scared me. It scared the shit out of me. I’m white but even the fact that I was from “Jew” York (their words) pissed them off. At first, it felt like too much of a cliché to be real. It was very real. Thing is, I know it’s always been there and I have definitely seen it before but it felt like because Obama was in office people were suddenly fiercely proud of it. It was in my face so much that I stopped going to the bars, opting instead to drink alone in the cabin. Well, drink and take my daily Suboxone strip until I ran out. There were two guns in the cabin. I was drunk and on Suboxone and I didn’t shoot anyone or anything.

The main effect opiates had on me was that it mellowed me out in a big way. It was like living in a silk coffin. The most obvious side effect I can recall was a general disinterest in being an active participant in life. I scratched myself and listened to Sonny Rollins by candlelight. I was just lost enough to convince myself that I was functioning. Then I tried to stop and the effects were debilitating to say the least.

I went on methadone then I was prescribed Suboxone. It mellowed me out in a much smaller way. I was agitated, severely depressed and filled with anxiety while I was getting off that. It was terrible but I assure you that the only person I felt like shooting was myself. If an argument is attempted to be made that Roof was going through the same sort of withdrawals from the drug and so that’s why he did what he did, then that will be just as ridiculous. After all, he sat through an hour of prayer before he committed the murders. He had an agenda that was very clear to him and he carried that out. None of that behavior is consistent with either being on or going off opiates unless the objective is to get more Suboxone. That is the only really clear objective opiate users have.

Roof was taught to hate. Roof was taught to shoot. Dylann Roof is a side effect of a country that needs to stop and take a good hard look at itself before it’s too late. After what Roof did, sadly, it might just be.

Dillon Murphy is a pseudonym for a regular contributor to The Fix. He last wrote about the beauty and the horror of AA, as well as his experiences being addicted toand quitting—suboxone.

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