The American Opioid Crisis
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The American Opioid Crisis
In Ohio, a view of the devastation on the ground captured by photographer Philip Montgomery on assignment for the magazine.
Released on 10/23/2017
We got a call on the first day of my ride-alongs.
It was on this very normal suburban street.
When I exited the car and walked up,
I could hear agonizing crying from down the street.
When I approached, I kind of came across this
really incredibly heartbreaking scene of
a family in mourning for their son,
who had just overdosed.
It really was one of the harder photos I've ever taken.
The family eventually reached out to me
and invited me to the funeral.
I felt really honored to be there.
Everyone had a story to tell about personal addiction,
or knowing someone that's died from an overdose.
It was incredibly emotional for everyone,
especially Brian's older brother, Tim.
They were two peas in a pod, thick as thieves.
From what I understood, Tim and Brian used to use together.
And I think Tim carried a burden of
the responsibility for Brian's use.
What's important to note about heroin
is it completely eliminates pain.
Physical pain and emotional pain,
and I think people that are prone to depression
and traumatic events in their lives,
that is an obvious place to turn to.
When researching for the story, I had heard about
a coroner's office in the city of Dayton.
And the coroner there had basically
been running out of room for bodies
that were coming into the coroner's office.
The morgue was at capacity with opioid-related overdoses.
He was speaking very candidly about it.
The more and more I researched,
I realized that this county,
Montgomery County in Ohio,
had the highest overdose rate in the country per capita.
That to me, at least, seemed like the place to go.
We were on non-stop ride-alongs.
We'd do two shifts.
Some days, only taking opioid calls.
One of the more memorable calls was actually my last day.
We got a call for an overdose in North Dayton.
A young man, must have been in his early 20s,
it was almost like he was snoring,
but his eyes were more or less kind of
rolled back in his head.
Just watched Dayton City Fire administer
Narcan it after Narcan hit.
His mother was in the room, which was rare.
I'd never really kind of seen
family be allowed to be in the room
when first responders are working on someone like that.
And she was really stoic.
I was really surprised.
It was almost like she had seen that before.
One of the fire fighters mentioned, you know,
we're close to our record, which is 14 hits.
I guess their personal record within
that fire department was 14 hits of Narcan
in order to revive someone that's overdosing.
By hit 11, he finally came to.
Narcan is this really unbelievable miracle drug.
It's not unlike a nasal spray.
When someone is overdosing on an opiate,
your breath slows to a halt.
If the first responders can get to you
before you fully flat line,
you'll be administered Narcan,
and that will reverse the effects of the overdose.
One thing you need to understand
with the first responders is
there will be times when they're administering Narcan
in the morning.
That person will recover, and those same officers
will be responding to another call in the evening
for the same person overdosing.
I think there's a real wall that they need to keep up
in order to maintain this sort of matter of fact process
in order for them to do their jobs efficiently.
All the officers I rode with
knew everybody by first name.
Knew their parents, knew their sisters.
That was something I didn't expect.
I don't think law enforcement
have a collective hypothesis
as to why this is happening.
And it'll really depend on who you're speaking to.
If you're speaking to a deputy
or a police officer who's kind of
dealing with it at a street level,
they would attribute it to generations of heroin users.
Other officers and other people within law enforcement
will hypothesize that it had a lot to do
with doctors writing prescriptions for pain meds.
What we're starting to see now
with fentanyl and carfentanil is a far more
concentrated form of heroin.
It's a synthetic opiate that has hit the market
and this is advantageous for drug traffickers
because it's far more condensed
and it's far more powerful.
They can sell a lot more of it.
We all, at some point,
have to have our wisdom teeth removed, or go into surgery.
Heroin and opioids, they're an extremely powerful
and extremely addictive drug that latches hold of you.
The needle doesn't discriminate.
It could really be any of us.
You know, it could really be any of us.
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