Photos Of The Opioid Epidemic
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Health and Wellness

13 Photos That Show What The Face Of The Opioid Epidemic REALLY Looks Like

If your family member is struggling with addiction, love them. Don't fight them, don't judge them. And for the love of everything holy, pray for them.

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Heroin

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.

4. Kayla Rauck, 29

A holding cell is no place to detox.

5. Bobby Lee, 45

Bobby has been an addict since he was 17.

6. Roger McLearran, 61

At 61, it's unlikely that this is his first overdose.

7. Fabian Pacheco, 17

Fabian's mother died of an overdose in 2015. His father is in jail.

8. Unidentified

These men are squatting underneath a truck to avoid being seen using.

9. "I hate to say this, but it became commonplace."

No one should have to die alone in a motel room.

10. Grandma

Somebody's grandmother.

11. Unidentified

The heartbreak on her face makes it a lot more difficult to call her a criminal.

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."

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