Tales: A Cautionary Story about Heroin Addiction

I began painting Tales in early 2014 for both personal reasons and in response to my growing awareness of the heroin epidemic that is sweeping across our country. An addict might tell himself or herself that what they are doing only affects them, whereas nothing can be further from the truth. Addiction touches not only those that care about the addict but also the larger community. In these notes I have highlighted the many issues that Tales touches upon. I hope that this book opens up discussions within families, classrooms and communities. Without an honest look at addiction, we will not be able to affect the decisions that people make.

In this guide, I have highlighted, for further discussion, the many issues related to drug addiction that are presented in Tales.


  • Relates to Page 7, “The Blue Fairy Watches Over Pinocchio. Pinocchio was loved and closely watched over by his parents.”

We must teach our children when they are young about the dangers of heroin addiction, while it is still possible to reach them. Children as young as twelve are becoming addicted to heroin.


  • Relates to Page 9, “Pinocchio in the Mouth of the Shark. Pinocchio experimented with drugs. He did not see that they were going to get a hold on him and swallow him whole.”

The path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs. But over time, a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised.

Seeking and taking the drug becomes compulsive. This is mostly due to the effects of long-term drug exposure on brain function. Addiction affects parts of the brain involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior.


  • Relates to Page 14, “Pinocchio Plays Roulette. Pinocchio entered into a dangerous game with high stakes – smack, jail, bail, OD, cash, dope, HIV, die, bust, score, crash are some of the options. If he’s lucky he’ll land on rehab or maybe find God.”

Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US – ahead of deaths from motor vehicles, accidents and firearms.

“Heroin addiction is a tragedy that happens one family at a time.”


  • Relates to Page 16, “The Blue Fairy Turns her Back on Pinocchio. Pinocchio’s parents had to make the difficult decision to turn their backs on Pinocchio.”

Drug use within a family causes stress and risks to all members of the family. Over time, most families find it necessary to limit contact with their drug-using family member.

Some of the problems of living with a drug addicted family member include: siblings of an addict are at higher risk of developing drug problems;
deterioration in one’s physical and psychological health due to stress, isolation and theft.


  • Relates to Page 19, “Building a Fort to Keep Pinocchio Out. Pinocchio’s parents did not want Pinocchio and his companion to break into their house again, so they built a fort to keep Pinocchio out.”

Drug use and intoxication impairs judgment often resulting in criminal behavior, poor anger management, and violent behavior.

Eventually the drug user finds himself or herself in a vicious cycle of arrests, fines, warrants, jail, release, arrests, fines, warrants, jail, release – with no help in sight, and the addict falls further and further from a normal life.


  • Relates to Page 20, “Pinocchio and the Cat Homeless. When Pinocchio and the Cat were released from prison they had nowhere to turn. Both their parents had thrown them out. They were homeless.”

It is believed that one in five homeless people struggle with chronic substance abuse. This is a complicated issue. In some cases, substance abuse is a cause of homelessness. In some situations, substance abuse is a result of homelessness as people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their problems. For many homeless people, substance abuse co-occurs with mental illness. They use street drugs as a form of self-medication.


  • Relates to Page 22, “Pinocchio and the Cat in the Pink Pussy Cat Lounge. Pinocchio and the Cat needed to make money. They took jobs in sex clubs to support their drug habits.”

“From classical dancer to strip club dancer – who wants to see their lives headed in this direction?”

Drug use is intrinsically linked to prostitution, especially street prostitution. Estimates suggest that between 40 and 85 per cent of all prostitutes are drug users. In some cases, a person may prostitute herself or himself as a way to finance a drug habit. In other cases, a third person may be forcing a person to work as a prostitute. Drug use may be a consequence of the life that prostitutes lead, to numb them from the degradation and often violence of their work.


  • Relates to Page 24, “Pinocchio Struggles to Pull Himself Up. Time and time again, Pinocchio struggled to kick his habit and get his life back in order.”

Addiction is a chronic disease and like any chronic disease, relapse is a part of it. There is no quick fix for addiction. Addicts may enter treatment many times before staying clean for good. Relapse is often part of the recovery process and can be a lifelong struggle. Drug addiction causes changes in the brain that can take years to repair.


  • Relates to Page 27, “Pinocchio Makes a Noose. Life became so unbearable for Pinocchio that he almost ended it.”

Treatment facilities for addicts recognize the role of depression, anxiety, bipolar and other mental illnesses that often co-occur in the treatment of addiction. More than half of all drug abusers have what is referred to as dual diagnosis. Either substance abuse or mental illness can develop first. A person experiencing a mental health condition may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate which worsens the symptoms.

Substance abuse can also lead to mental health problems because of the effects drugs have on a person’s brain chemistry and behavior.


  • Relates to Page 29, “Pinocchio Meets a Wise Judge. Pinocchio met a wise judge, who sentenced him to rehab.”

“Individuals who enter treatment under legal pressure have outcomes as favorable as those who enter treatment voluntarily.”

According to a report from Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, more than 65 per cent of people behind bars are drug addicts but few receive treatment while incarcerated. Drug treatment in prison and the community reduces the risk of further relapse and drug-related criminal behavior, which brings a huge savings in costs to society.


  • Relates to Page 30, “Pinocchio has Time to Think Things Over. Pinocchio entered rehab. There he was able to think about his life and where he wanted it to go.”

Detoxification, or ridding the body of drugs, is the first step in treating addiction. This needs to be followed by some form of rehabilitation. For those with more severe problems, residential treatment is considered to be the most effective treatment. Licensed residential treatment facilities offer 24-hour structured and intensive care, including safe housing and medical attention.

Residential treatment facilities use a variety of therapeutic approaches aimed at helping the patient live a drug-free, crime-free lifestyle.


  • Relates to Page 34, “Pinocchio Mends Fences. Pinocchio worked on gaining trust and repairing the relationships that needed to be mended.”

Drug addiction impacts the lives of everyone who cares about the addicted person. Rebuilding trust in a relationship does not happen overnight. The anger, resentment and lack of trust that a recovering addict may face can be difficult to overcome. Open communication, staying sober and working on building a good life in recovery are necessary to repairing relationships.


Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
Joseph Rowntree Foundation, UK
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
National Alliance to End Homelessness
National Coalition for the Homeless
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Issues covered: drug education, heroin addiction, addiction as disease, addiction & mental health, addiction & criminal justice, addiction & crime, addiction & prostitution, addiction & homelessness, detoxification & rehabilitation, treatment for addiction, addiction & recovery, effects of addiction on family.