Home > All Posts > With a Ph.D., Victim Of Drug Abuse Didn’t Fit Sterotype

With a Ph.D., Victim Of Drug Abuse Didn’t Fit Sterotype

Drug addiction can happen to ANYONE!!


By Peter Hermann

October 1, 2009 – Marianne Woessner is a North Carolina  nurse and midwife who sees drug addicts with good jobs and from families every day. They occupy a hidden world that belies the stereotype of rail-thin junkies stumbling from one street corner to the next in search of a fix.

Woessner was the mother of one such drug addict. She made the discovery Sunday night, when a Baltimore police officer called to tell her that her daughter, Carrie Elizabeth John, died that evening after apparently injecting herself with buprenorphine while trying to get high with her boyfriend. Clinton Blaine McCracken, in their rented rowhouse near downtown.

The couple was postdoctoral fellows at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, working in labs on the same floor, studying the effects of drug addiction even as, police said, they grew marijuana inside their home and used narcotics purchased over the Internet from a Philippine pharmacy that shipped pills hidden in stuffed animals.

“These are two brilliant people who made a stupid error in judgment,” Woessner said in a telephone interview Wednesday, as she prepared to bury her 29-year-old daughter in the town where she grew up. Woessner said she doesn’t think McCracken either injected her daughter or forced her to do drugs.

“He loved her and she loved him,” she said. “I know this. They’re humans, just like all of us. We all have our faults. Just because drugs is what they studied doesn’t mean anything. Addiction is addiction, no matter what we do, what race we are, what occupation we have.”

Baltimore police have charged McCracken, 32, with several drug violations, and a department spokesman said federal authorities have expressed interest in pursuing the case. McCracken is free on bail and declined to comment when reached at his home on Wednesday.

McCracken told police, according to court documents, that he and John “thought they could control the morphine and buprenorphine” and that he thought marijuana should be legalized.

Dr. Donald Jasinski, chief of the center for chemical dependency at John Hopkins Bayview Center, said it should come as no shock to see doctors or other medical professionals addicted to drugs, especially those who study narcotics and are around the chemicals daily.

“Anybody who handles drugs think they know how to control it,” he said. “Perhaps the risk group for opiate dependency is doctors.”

Buprenorphine is commonly used to ease heroin addicts off the drug, and is prevalent in Baltimore and other cities as an alternative to methadone. A 2007 Baltimore Sun series described the growing use of “bupe” but noted that it too can be addictive and, while helping some addicts, could create another group of drug dependents.

Jasinski said doctors “who you think would know better” sometimes like to experiment like everyone else . “How many people try to quit smoking and know that it’s bad for them and want to quit but can’t”? he said.

Woessner drove from High Point, N.C., to Baltimore early Monday and spent Tuesday talking to her daughter’s friends and co-workers. She toured the place where John worked and gathered her personal belongings.

She said she was angry to discover that lab workers for the medical school, said drug tests are administered to “certain employees as required by law,” but she confirmed that workers in the lab where John and McCracken worked were not monitored regularly.

Woessner described her daughter as a “superstar” and said “everything she did, she did well.” She started playing softball at age 7 and continued on a team in Baltimore. She played the clarinet in her high school band and embraced the Native American heritage of her father’s family. She graduated from high school early and enrolled in Cornell University at the age of 17, majoring in biology.

She met McCracken at Wake Forest University as they worked toward doctorates in their shared field of interest, drug addiction. She earned a doctorate in physiology and pharmacology.

She moved to Baltimore in 2006. McCracken left the university at Pittsburgh three months ago to join her. John worked on projects involving schizophrenia and drug use, and last year led a neuroscience discussion on “This is your brain on drugs.”

Woessner said she met McCracken several times and that she regarded him as “polite, intelligent, articulate” and someone “who loved my daughter.” They planned to live together for a year before marriage, and, she said, McCracken would have made a “perfect son-in-law.”

He wasn’t passionate or romantic, she said, but worked hard and seemed happy to be in the same profession as his girlfriend. Their red-brick Dover Street rowhouse was just a few blocks from the university.

It is there that police said John and McCracken led a life that the young woman’s mother never saw. McCracken told authorities that he and John injected themselves with buprenorphine and morphine. Police said they had turned their unkempt house into an indoor marijuana farm, with grow lights and fans vented with aluminum dryer hoses. Police said they found pills in bags, at least 20 bongs, 30 marijuana plants growing up to two feet high and more packed and stored in Mason jars.

According to court documents, McCracken gave police a detailed account of what happened Sunday, saying he and John soaked two buprenorphine pills in water before filtering and filling two syringes each with 1 mg doses of the drug. He said John, who has asthma, injected first and immediately had trouble breathing. He helped her use her inhaler, and then dialed 911.

She got to the hospital at 6 p.m. and dies 49 minutes later. McCracken said he didn’t get a chance to shoot up because John had already gone into distress. Police found her syringe in the living room of the house.

McCracken told police that he didn’t think John overdosed, but instead injected a bad batch of drugs. Police said results of toxicology tests to determine how John died are pending.

Woessner said she met with McCracken on Tuesday and described him as “very upset, because they were playing, they were doing what couples do. This was not an intentional thing.”

Just the same, she does not want him at her daughter’s funeral on Saturday. She said some relatives are angry with hi, and with what happened, and  wants the service to be a place “where I hope to celebrate her life.”

Woessner repeated that she doesn’t blame the boyfriend but said, “I say to God, ‘I hope that Clint can someday find some peace with this.’ ”

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  1. August 14, 2011 at 1:20 am

    I can understand how easily people in their position could be tempted to use these drugs. The usual taboo against drugs wouldn’t exist because they work with them.
    Mainstream society thinks that addicts are a group separate from “normal” people when in reality they are just ordinary people with a medical condition. The criminalisation of drugs was a political decision which unwittingly raised the price. When this ensured good profits for those involved in the black market. It attracted the attention of Wall st, the Military Industrial Complex as well as many compartments within governments such as the CIA who realised that they could earn massive profits from the industry while keeping this huge flow of cash “off the books”. Nowadays the US economy depends on the Narco-dollar and it’s up to us to put a stop to it. Catherine Austin Fitts has completed a detailed study on the effects of narcotics on the US economy, it’s well worth the read.

  2. October 30, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Wonderful story!
    Thank you Billie! We have missed your posts so much!

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