Published by WNYC
Some 77 million Americans are personally affected in some way by the opioid epidemic, and at least 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. During this special episode, The Takeaway dives deep into the crisis. Here’s what you’ll find:
- An estimated 50 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain, and as doctors struggle to figure out how to treat it, the opioid epidemic has grown in its wake. Keith Wailoo, an expert on pain and author of “Pain: A Political History,” explains.
- Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, says America is in the throes of an enormous crisis of addiction, and at the heart of this crisis lies the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies. He talks about the pressure he and other doctors felt in the ‘90s to turn to prescribing opioids, arguing that many medical professionals have been duped by marketing campaigns that actually drive addiction and death.
- From the pain pills that someone is prescribed, to the heroin that can be bought on the street, where do these drugs come from and how are they made? Darren Foster, co-founder of Muck Media and a Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker who has focused on the opioid epidemic, answers.
- Kimber is a 26-year-old woman from Lynn, Massachusetts. She first used opioids for pleasure at age 13 or 14 after undergoing dental surgery, but became addicted to percocet and then heroin in her early 20s. After many tries at beating her addiction, she’s now more than 80 days clean, and tells us about what being an addict feels like, what she had to do to support her habit, and the moment she says changed her perspective.
- For some families with a loved one struggling with opioid addiction, involuntary commitment can seem like a drastic but necessary step. That’s court-mandated treatment, which forces an addict to get help. But this option doesn’t exist in some states, like New Hampshire, which is reeling from opioid overdose deaths. New Hampshire Public Radio’s Paige Sutherland, has the story of two families — one in New Hampshire, and another nearby in Massachusetts — who grappled with involuntary commitment to try to save an addicted child.
- Beth Kane-Davidson is the director of the Johns Hopkins Suburban Hospital addiction treatment center. She’s been treating addicts for more than 30 years. She sits down with Jessica Jeffery, an addict in recovery, and Deborah Gafner, a mother of son who died of a heroin overdose. Together, they reflect on their experiences, and the importance of confronting this epidemic head on with treatment and prevention.