Inside a Killer Drug Epidemic: A Look at America’s Opioid Crisis

Inside a Killer Drug Epidemic: A Look at America’s Opioid Crisis

Opioid addiction is America’s 50-state epidemic. It courses along Interstate highways in the form of cheap smuggled heroin, and flows out of “pill mill” clinics where pain medicine is handed out like candy. It has ripped through New England towns, where people overdose in the aisles of dollar stores, and it has ravaged coal country, where addicts speed-dial the sole doctor in town licensed to prescribe a medication.

Public health officials have called the current opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history, killing more than 33,000 people in 2015. Overdose deaths were nearly equal to the number of deaths from car crashes. In 2015, for the first time, deaths from heroin alone surpassed gun homicides.

And there’s no sign it’s letting up, a team of New York Times reporters found as they examined the epidemic on the ground in states across the country. From New England to “safe injection” areas in the Pacific Northwest, communities are searching for a way out of a problem that can feel inescapable.

Marblehead, Mass.

In Suburbia, ‘Tired of Everything’

Katie Harvey walked out of the house where she lived with friends, shoved her duffel bag into her mother’s car and burst into tears.

“I need to go to detox,” she told her mother, Maureen Cavanagh. “I’m just tired of everything.”

Ms. Harvey, 24, had been shooting heroin for three years. She had been in and out of detox — eight times altogether. But it had always been someone else’s idea.

This time, Ms. Harvey made the arrangements herself. She had come to loathe her life. “I haven’t even been doing enough to get really high,” she said. “I’m just maintaining myself so I don’t get sick.”

Before she left for detox, Ms. Harvey curled up on the couch in her mother’s living room in this well-to-do suburb north of Boston and reflected on her life: her low self-esteem despite model-worthy good looks; her many lies to her family; how she had pawned her mother’s jewelry and had sex with strange men for money to pay for drugs.

As she spoke, tears spilled from her eyes. She wiped them with the cuff of her sweater, which covered track marks and a tattoo that said “freedom” — her goal, to be unshackled from the prison of addiction.

Ms. Harvey had been a popular honors student. But she developed anorexia. Alcohol was next. By 21, she was hooked on heroin.

In 2015, she was arrested on charges of prostitution. In an extraordinary act of contrition, she wrote a public apology online to her friends and family.

Still, she plunged in deeper. She estimated that at her worst, she was shooting up a staggering number of times a day, perhaps as many as 15 — heroin, cocaine, fentanyl. She overdosed five times. In Massachusetts, almost five residents die every day from overdoses.

“I don’t know how I’m alive, honestly,” Ms. Harvey said… Read More>>

Source: The New York Times

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