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Star athlete overcame his secret addiction
Peter Barbuto was a star baseball player for Boston College High School and Merrimack College, but like an increasing number of young Hub men, he had a deep, dark — and dangerous — secret: He was addicted to opiates.
“The prescription medication is just so readily available,” Barbuto told the Herald. “It’s easier for a 14-year-old kid to get his hands on prescription pills than it is alcohol.”
Barbuto grew up in Dorchester’s Savin Hill and said he “dabbled” in the painkiller Percocet and other pills throughout his days in the hallways and on the ball fields at B.C. High. He took his talents to Merrimack, where he played for the baseball team and graduated with a degree in political science, despite his escalating addiction. He went on to manage a Cape Cod golf course, even as his opiate habit worsened and he became hooked on OxyContin.
“It’s a typical story,” he said. “(Opiate abuse) is getting worse in a lot of areas.”
In 2006, he was charged by Falmouth police with embezzling $43,000 from the golf course. That was his “rock bottom” and it brought him to the Gavin House in South Boston, a treatment center that has worked with dozens of young men and women just like Barbuto. Many have promising futures and make it out of the terrifying vortex of addiction, but too many do not.
“It just takes so long coming back from opiate addiction for your body to realign,” he recalled. “It was like nine months before I had a decent night’s sleep.”
Barbuto avoided jail and considers himself lucky to have a good support network that helped him complete the full Gavin House program, including structured living for more than a year. These days he works for Treatment Solutions, a firm that provides addiction services, and volunteers at the Gavin House.
“It’s hard, and it’s sad. I speak with a lot of parents, and I see the pain they deal with,” Barbuto said. “It’s hard, but the opportunity for recovery is there.”