SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 11, 2006

Allison suffers second heroin overdose

By Paul Leighton

PEABODY - Former Peabody High baseball star Jeff Allison overdosed on heroin injected at a friend's home in Medford this week, Medford police said. It was the latest incident in a promising career that has again hit rock bottom.

Police found the 21-year-old Allison unconscious on the bathroom floor at 3 Hastings Lane in Medford at around 3 p.m. Monday, according to a police report. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. A brown bag with heroin paraphernalia was lying on the floor near him, the report says.

Andrew Coppola of Peabody, a longtime friend of Allison, said he dropped Allison off at the house on Sunday night but was not there when Allison overdosed and was hospitalized. Coppola said he visited Allison at Winchester Hospital before he was released this week, but he has not seen him since.

"At this point I don't think anybody can accurately say what's going to happen to him," Coppola said. "He's been on a roller coaster."

Allison could not be reached for comment.

This is the second time that Allison, a former first-round draft pick of the Florida Marlins, has overdosed on heroin. He was also found unconscious in an apartment in Lynn in July 2004.

Allison has pitched only 20 games in the minor leagues since the Marlins drafted him out of Peabody High School in 2003 and gave him a $1.85 million signing bonus. His career has been plagued by an admitted addiction to OxyContin, an opiate similar to heroin.

Allison has failed a drug test, has been suspended twice by the Marlins and has forfeited much of his signing bonus. He has not pitched at all this year since he was suspended after leaving spring training in March.

Allison had been living with his mother, Noreen, in North Carolina, where he pitched last year for the Marlins' minor league team in Greensboro. Coppola said he hadn't seen Allison since November but got a call from him on Sunday saying he was in Plymouth, N.H., and needed a ride.

Coppola said he never asked Allison why he was in New Hampshire. However, he said Allison may have been staying at the Plymouth House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center where Coppola himself had once sought treatment.

Coppola said Allison asked for a ride to a friend's house in Medford. Coppola said he dropped Allison off at the Hastings Lane apartment on Sunday night.

Coppola, 21, said he wasn't at the house on Monday when Allison overdosed, but the police report lists him as the "other party," along with Jackie Carviello, also 21, who lives at the house.

The police report says an "unknown (to us) third party" left the house when the incident occurred. Coppola said that person is another friend of Allison's from Peabody and the one who went with Allison to buy the heroin.

Coppola said he is upset that his name is on the police report while the other friend's name is not.

"Jeff mentioned my name (to police), but I have no idea why," Coppola said. "I did a good deed for him. I drove almost five hours round-trip to help out a friend, and he goes and repays me by mentioning my name to police."

"There's another kid involved who brought him to get the heroin. I thought it was kind of ironic that Jeff wouldn't have mentioned his name to police."

The police report says that a complaint is being sought in the incident but does not say who is the subject of the complaint. Coppola said last night he had not spoken to Medford police. Carviello could not be reached for comment.

Coppola said he has also battled an addiction to OxyContin but is now clean after spending two weeks at the Plymouth House in December.

But in April, he was arrested three times within seven days. Coppola was arrested on April 12 at his home on Cardigan Road in Peabody, where he lives with his parents, and was charged with domestic assault and battery. Two days later, he was arrested in Peabody and charged with speeding, receiving a stolen vehicle, driving an unregistered vehicle and driving without a license. Four days after that, he was arrested at Wal-Mart in Danvers and charged with shoplifting and two charges of drug possession.

Coppola said he intended to take OxyContin when he was arrested at Wal-Mart but never did. Despite those arrests, he said he has been clean since December and has never taken drugs with Allison, on Monday or any other time.

"I'm sure that on paper it would look suspicious," he said. "But anybody that knows me, knows Jeff or knows anything about the situation knows I had nothing to do with it."

Coppola said half the friends he grew up with have been addicted to OxyContin.

"Once it came around to Peabody, it just turned into a complete epidemic," he said. "I can't even tell you how many people I know who have been directly affected by it. It's pretty heartbreaking, to be honest with you."

Coppola said he wishes the best for Allison and, despite his friend's two overdoses, thinks he can recover.

"I've seen people go through worse and pull out on the opposite side," Coppola said. "If he puts his heart and soul into recovery, I have no doubt he can pull out of it."