The opioid epidemic continues to be a national crisis
The opioid epidemic is a national crisis. But what does that mean? To answer that, Yahoo News traveled to Middletown, Ohio — a city once considered as ordinary as its name, more recently known for an explosion in opioid use — and explored quantitative research about drugs, health care, and national public opinion. This is a problem so serious that it requires big data, so human that it needs a face.
For 16 of his 36 years, Jack Barrett has been a heroin addict. Today, he sits casually in a white plastic chair at Groups, the treatment center that he credits with saving his life. That was after he finally sought help for the first time — after overdosing, and being revived with Narcan, eight times in seven days. He says that the problem was fentanyl, a synthetic opioid some 40 times more potent than heroin: “It’s not just heroin anymore.” How did he start using? “How does anyone start? I don’t know.” It’s his first time getting help that sticks in his memory.
Groups lies off Main Street and Central Avenue in Middletown, Ohio — a city of 49,000 that the Butler County prosecutor calls the “buckle of Middle America,” the Butler County sheriff calls “the Heartland” and many people here seem to call “home, unfortunately.” Far from making him stand out, in Middletown Jack’s addiction signifies his belonging. “If you’re young here,” he explains, “people just assume you’re on heroin.”