Trou­bled by drug deaths, tat­tooist posts odd of­fer

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - EMMA PET­TIT

A North Lit­tle Rock tat­too artist is of­fer­ing $100 worth of free ink to any­one who ditches il­licit drugs in front of him.

Dur­ing his morn­ing cof­fee, Scott Dif­fee, who op­er­ates The Par­lor Tat­too at 4603 E. Broad­way, went on Face­book and made a pledge.

If a per­son takes in a “bag of dope be it heroin or ice” and “flush[es] it down the toi­let in front of me,” that per­son will get a $100 tat­too for free, Dif­fee wrote.

“Ice” is a highly pu­ri­fied form of metham­phetamine. Within hours, the post was liked hun­dreds of times.

The par­lor charges $100 an hour with a $50 min­i­mum. A black-and-white devil rid­ing a skate­board, Tu­pac Shakur and Lego Bat­man are some of the dozens of pos­si­ble $80 tat­toos dis­played on the in­side walls.

The toi­let Dif­fee men­tioned is a metaphor­i­cal one. “That’s just my term of say­ing, let’s get rid of it,” he said.

The 46-year-old said he will talk to his friends in law en­force­ment to de­cide how to prop­erly dis­pose of any drugs peo­ple take to him.

Later Tues­day, Dif­fee posted on Face­book that the idea may need “a lit­tle re-work­ing” and asked peo­ple to give him proof that they’ve en­tered some form of treat­ment pro­gram.

Dif­fee said his orig­i­nal post was mo­ti­vated, in part, by a rash of young adults

abus­ing hard-core sub­stances. Dif­fee’s mother also used drugs, he said. She was con­victed of killing his grand­mother more than 20 years ago.

Matt White, who owns the Lit­tle Rock bar and music venue White Wa­ter Tavern, said he doesn’t think peo­ple “have any un­der­stand­ing of the epi­demic that’s hap­pen­ing” in the area.

On Tues­day, White at­tended the funeral of a 23-year-old woman who died of a drug over­dose last week.

While there, White said the funeral director in­formed him of a 20-year-old who had just died of a heroin over­dose.

“He told me the name. And I know him,” White said, adding that he could name at least five peo­ple who died of over­doses in the past cou­ple of months.

Area law en­force­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Pu­laski County sheriff’s of­fice, have be­gun equip­ping of­fi­cers with Nar­can. It’s a brand of the anti-opi­oid med­i­ca­tion nalox­one that coun­ter­acts the ef­fects of a nar­cotics over­dose.

Since May, the sheriff’s of­fice has made six Nar­can “saves,” spokesman Lt. Cody Burk said.

Na­tional data in­di­cate deaths linked to drug over­doses have in­creased dras­ti­cally in the past 20 years. In 2014, more peo­ple died from drug over­doses in the United States than dur­ing any pre­vi­ous year on record, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 re­port from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Arkansas saw 356 drug poi­son­ing deaths in 2014, and 392 in 2015, the most re­cent year for which data are avail­able, the CDC re­ported. The state’s over­dose death rate is com­pa­ra­ble to the na­tional

av­er­age.

Though more at­ten­tion is be­ing paid to heroin use, Dif­fee said metham­phetamine is just as much of a threat. But meth users are of­ten thought of as “speed-heads” or “junkies,” not as peo­ple, he said.

The par­lor ac­cepts all peo­ple, Dif­fee said Tues­day as he held forth from a por­ta­ble chi­ro­prac­tic bed at his tat­too shop, wear­ing a skull ring the size of a wal­nut.

“I tat­too all the cops. I tat­too all the crooks,” he said.

“They say pros­ti­tu­tion was the first pro­fes­sion. That girl had a tat­too, I’ll tell you that,” he later added.

The $100 tat­too prom­ise is not about the money — “I’m rob­bing Peter to feed Paul around here” — or for his rep­u­ta­tion, Dif­fee said. Rather, the ink will mark the day some­one made a good choice, he said.

A mes­sage left in the af­ter­noon for a North Lit­tle Rock Po­lice Depart­ment spokesman seek­ing com­ment about Dif­fee’s idea was not re­turned.

A spokesman for the Lit­tle Rock Po­lice Depart­ment said he would rather peo­ple turn over il­licit sub­stances to po­lice agen­cies.

There might also be “some le­gal is­sues” with Dif­fee’s pro­posal, the spokesman, Lt. Michael Ford, said.

Burk with the Pu­laski County sheriff’s of­fice said Dif­fee’s “heart is in the right place, and ev­ery­thing like that, but I don’t think it will do much on their ad­dic­tion.”

Drug de­pen­dence “is a dis­ease that re­quires treat­ment,” a Univer­sity of Arkansas for Med­i­cal Sciences

spokesman said in an email.

The aca­demic hos­pi­tal op­er­ates the Cen­ter for Ad­dic­tion Ser­vices and Treat­ment. More in­for­ma­tion on the cen­ter is avail­able by call­ing (501) 526-8400.

The sheriff’s of­fice and Lit­tle Rock po­lice run pre­scrip­tion drug take-back pro­grams.

Burk noted that of­fi­cials don’t check the la­bels of the sub­stances they re­ceive and de­stroy.

Though his post gained so­cial and news me­dia at­ten­tion, Dif­fee doubts many peo­ple will take him up on the of­fer. Those who use drugs like heroin “are mess­ing with a gi­ant,” he said.

“I won’t see five peo­ple that will come and do it.” Why?

“Be­cause they’re ad­dicted to drugs.”

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