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‘Become My Mom Again’: What It’s Like to Grow Up Amid the Opioid Crisis

June 20, 2019

More than 20 years after the introduction of OxyContin — and nearly 400,000 opioid overdose deaths later — a generation is growing up amid the throes of a historic epidemic. Call them Generation O: the children whose families are trapped in a relentless grip of addiction, rehab and prison. Here in Scioto County, a mix of verdant farmland and old mill towns on the southern edge of Ohio where everyone appears to know someone who has struggled with dependency, 51 people died of an overdose in 2017. At one school, administrators said, four kindergartners lost parents to drugs, and a fifth to a drug-related homicide.

Nearly two dozen young people across the county described chaotic home lives rife with neglect and abuse. They recounted begging their parents — who more often spent money on the next fix than on food — to stop using drugs. And they described finding relatives unconscious or frothing at the mouth after overdosing. The interviews were coordinated by social workers, educators and community activists, and for those younger than 18, church staff, their guardians or their parents gave them permission to speak, and were present in some cases.

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