Death of young girl reveals extent of narcotics abuse

Local drug addicts have been the only inhabitants of the abandoned Public Power Corporation (PPC) buildings for the past seven years in the northern Greek town of Ptolemaida. Next to the old PPC facilities are workers’ apartments. On the third floor is where the 14-year-old girl had lived for the past six years. Her parents separated when she was 8. Since then her father has eked out a living as a driver, while her mother struggled to raise three children. Every morning from early childhood the girl saw discarded syringes on the sidewalk outside her house. In her short life she crossed the threshold into the deserted rooms that have appeared on television news bulletins, with the tattered mattresses and walls with «blood» scrawled on them in red. News reports said that the drug paraphernalia, which was still scattered around until last Monday morning when municipal workers cleaned it up, was her only escape from a broken home. In real life, however, explanations are not so simple. Had the girl been an adult, it’s likely nobody would have paid any attention. Apart from police officers filling out forms with the names of people who have died from overdoses, who would have bothered writing her whole name instead of just the initials? The only one who apparently did care was the woman who went into the girl’s room at 4 p.m. on Sunday, believed she was unconscious and tried to revive her. Half an hour later, at the Bodossakeio Hospital, the mother heard the doctors talking about rigor mortis, which meant that her daughter had been dead for two hours. The coroner of Kozani was on leave, the girl’s body lay untouched in the morgue for at least one day, and only a straw hidden among her clothes gave any indication that drugs caused her death, but nobody in town believed it was anything else. In Ptolemaida people might not want to talk about it but they all know what’s going on. The sun in Ptolemaida is blotted out from dawn by smoke and ash from the PPC power station’s chimneys. The people who live there are employees of the dark coal mines, who are well paid and some even retire at 45. But they are being paid well because they live a short life, for people in Ptolemaida rarely die of anything but cancer. The fact remains that in this provincial town there is a lot of money, a lot of free time, and very little to do with either of them. Police have discovered recently that there’s one new thing to do. A new synthetic substance has appeared. It is very much like cocaine, but much more dangerous and much cheaper, 30 euros a gram compared to 90.