New Yorker’s ‘The Addicts Next Door’ Spotlights Opioid Epidemic

West Virginians under grip of opioid addiction give human view of national crisis.

May 30, 2017 12:50 pm

A recent New Yorker article explores the current American opioid epidemic, in which addicts choose to collapse in gas stations, restaurant bathrooms, and at their children’s sporting events for a reason:

There’s a higher chance of being discovered and saved before the overdose kills them.

But because they are addicts, even a brush with death isn’t enough for many to seek treatment.

The heroin has seeped deeper into West Virginia than anywhere else in the country, the New Yorker reports, and the state boasts the highest overdose death rate in the country. An “alluringly cheap alternative” to prescription medications, heroin itself is threatening to drown the state, but there is hope.

Particularly hard hit is the state’s Eastern Panhandle, where the population is mostly white and lower middle class to poor.

Writer Margot Talbot shows the extent of the damage in Berkeley County, West Virginia, in a ride along with emergency paramedics as they went from OD to OD call on one shift this spring. Sometimes, the victims were people they knew personally.

Explained paramedic Michael Barrett: “(You) get more angry at them—you’re, like, ‘Man, you got a kid, what the hell’s wrong with you?’”

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