Graphic content could be disturbing to some readers.
At a time when 63,000 people die every year of a drug overdose and 42,000 of those die of an opioid overdose specifically, to say that we need to start looking at the opioid epidemic differently is an understatement. From celebrity deaths to mass drug overdoses, there isn't an area in this country that isn't touched by this epidemic. In a recent TIME Special Report, photographer James Nachtwey traveled the country interviewing users, families, first responders, and others at the heart of the epidemic, capturing the reality behind the numbers with heartbreaking photos and poignant stories about what they have experienced. The photos and quotes below make up "The Opioid Diaries."
1. "This sort of thing happens so often, it's sad to say it’s on to the next once they are out of our care."
Left on the side of the road to die.
2. "I'm getting older. I see less and less of the future I want for myself and more and more of this taking over."
When users run out of easily accessible veins, they move on to more unorthodox locations.
3. Michaela Gingras, 27
27 is far too young to be laying in a casket. Especially from something so preventable.
9. "I hate to say this, but it became commonplace."
No one should have to die alone in a motel room.
12. "You kind of become cold to seeing somebody overdose. As an officer, you bury it away. A lot of us do that. That's how we cope. It becomes easy to talk about the drug and not talk about the person, to say, 'Yeah, just another one.'"
Look at all of those guns. For a man as helpless as this.
13. Brandi Merrifield, 22
After his daughter died of a heroin overdose at 22, Billy Merrifield, a captain with the Rio Arriba sheriff's office in New Mexico, says, "It never gets easier. Because that void will always be there. Our children are supposed to bury us; we're not supposed to bury them."