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The pain was excruciating and unrelenting. Judging from the collective gasp of the fans gathered that Saturday night at The Swamp, it was likely a career-ending injury.

Warren Reinhardt was the star quarterback of the Florida Gators. As a returning senior, he was high on the whisper list of candidates for the Heisman Trophy and, like Tim Tebow before him, was expected to lead the team to a repeat performance of the 2009 season. His near-religious dedication to working out in the gym, dating back to junior high school, maintained a physique that escaped the attention of only the most nearsighted of coeds. Despite his BMOC status, Warren was unassuming, almost bashful. He didn’t date much and blamed that on having too little time, what with football and classwork. He was a good student and an even better bass player, but his future was pinned to the gridiron.

Now, clutching his left knee and biting down hard on his molars, all he could see was the garnet-and-gold jerseys of at least five Seminole linemen and all that came to mind was Jameis Winston, which only made the pain worse!

To Warren it appeared as though the paramedics were moving in slow motion. In fact, they were moving at Mach 1 as they approached the 40-yard line with their Ferno stretcher and lifted him carefully onto the padded metal gurney. Some wondered whether respectful applause would be proper. Others just looked on with concern as Warren was rolled off the field and into a waiting ambulance, its red and white lights ablaze but sirens silenced.

That fateful night more than two years ago would become even more fateful than Warren had imagined. In college, he had been courted by NFL scouts and provided the resources necessary to support an off-campus lifestyle that was enviable.

Now a college dropout, and arguably a life dropout, he sat on the threadbare sofa of a southeast Gainesville tenement he shared with four other sad stories. The pall of stale cigarettes filled the room, the centerpiece of which was an old wooden coffee table complete with stains and cigarette burns. On the table beside a dirty ashtray and within Warren’s reach was an Afrin nasal spray bottle he had just filled with his own concoction of fentanyl in saltwater. As he stared at it with repulsive desire, he pondered the long list of those he had come to blame for his addiction to this wonderfully dreadful class of drugs known as opioids.

Perhaps he alone was responsible, unwilling to act on the pleas and the prayers of his concerned family and close friends. Or maybe like his alcoholic father, he just carried a gene that waylaid any choice he had in the matter.

Maybe it was that orthopedic surgeon who had done a great job repairing his knee and prescribed Vicodin for the post-operative pain. More likely it was the truly less-than-caring staff of the hospital-recommended Pain Management Clinic that continued to write his opiate prescriptions month after month, or the neighborhood pharmacist who continued to fill them without question.

Maybe it was the article he had read about Paul Gray of Slipknot, the bass player Warren aspired to emulate, who had died of an accidental overdose of morphine and fentanyl. Or perhaps it was his most recent “friend” who had sold him the fentanyl at an outrageous price and given him the weblink on how to prepare it for intranasal administration.

No, he finally concluded the one most responsible for his plight was the damnable drug company that overproduced, over promoted, and over sold the shit!

With a blast into each nostril, Warren sat back on the couch and waited for the euphoria he had come to hate. Within seconds he felt the bottle slip from his hand and heard it hit the floor. Suddenly his visual field was filled with bright … white … light.

Ahhh … I’m back in the game!

Proceeds donated to opioid addiction and rehabilitation 
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