Opioids

The Opioid Epidemic from Two Different Viewpoints: The Living and The Dead

January 6th, 2017
Sad woman looking out window

There’s more than one way to tell a story, especially when that story is the opioid epidemic ravaging the nation. STAT, an online publication owned by Boston Globe Media, took a look at the death toll of the opioid crisis by searching Legacy.com and other sources and selecting excerpts from the obituaries of 52 people who died in 2016. Each person represented the estimated 636 Americans who die on average each week from an opioid-related overdose (based on 2015 data). The New York Times, instead, “examined the epidemic on the ground” in various states across the country. The personal accounts of addicted persons, care providers, family members, and law enforcement paint a fascinating picture of the opioid crisis.

Dan Manus of Seattle was one of the people who shared his story with The New York Times. He has a 360-degree perspective on the crisis, having suffered with an addiction and now serving as a medical emergency professional.

‘She couldn’t even form a sentence,’ said Dan Manus, a soft-spoken 61-year-old in a Seattle Seahawks cap. His jaw tightened as he recalled the night in October when he and his partner on the King County Emergency Service Patrol found the girl and, he thinks, saved her life.

A former addict, he knows the terrain too well. He’s been clean for 22 years now, and working for the county for the last nine.

‘I can relate to everybody I work with down there, because for the grace of God, there go I,’ Mr. Manus said, standing in the patrol parking lot between runs. ‘So, yeah, I feel like this kind of was my calling.’

The stories in The New York Times may have hard edges, but they do have hope. The stories are about the living, after all. The stories in STAT are meant to showcase what the publication calls “desperate warnings” people have included in the obituaries of their loved ones.

“Many words of remembrance have been transformed into pleas for help — directed at lawmakers, families suffering similar experiences, and the general public. Families are using these public notices to push for better and more treatment options while spreading the message that addiction is a disease and not something to be endured in shameful silence.”

While the publications each took a different approach to telling the story of the opioid epidemic, what’s important is that the story is being told. Putting human faces to a crisis makes it all the more real to the average person.

Credit: M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times


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