The 2015 Sam Quinones book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic” tells the story of how the prescription painkiller epidemic of the early 2000s spawned heroin addiction in unlikely locations around the country.
A network of enterprising drug dealers — basically farm boys from a small village in Mexico — spread heroin in suburban and rural areas not far from mid-sized cities all over America … areas that opioid pills like OxyContin had previously hit the hardest. Heroin had found itself in places like southern Ohio, central Tennessee and Idaho … places where the biggest drug problems were traditionally alcohol and marijuana.
There were no heroin addicts in the towns Quinones described. Then, suddenly, there were.
Some of the towns with major heroin problems Quinones described sounded a lot like Greenville. Suburban … rural … not far from a mid-sized city. Not long ago, there were no heroin addicts in Greenville. Now, there are. And some are dying.
The heroin issue in our area pales in comparison to some of the truly stricken areas around the country; such as the town of Portsmouth, Ohio, that Quinones chronicled. But it’s enough of a problem in The Daily News readership area that we’ve been writing about overdose deaths, the distribution of naloxone and a fair share of local organizations that are focusing on the heroin issue regularly. And more than a few overdose victims have appeared in our obituaries.
Early this year, we decided to go a little deeper to tell the story of heroin in our area. Daily News reporters have spent the past several months listening to the stories of families who have been devastated by the drug, of former addicts who speak of the grip of the drug and the difficulty of recovery, of first responders’ reactions to overdoses and of law enforcement officials who deal with the heroin problem every day. We appreciate and thank the sources who shared their difficult stories or let us spend some time with them on their work shift.
This special report “Heroin Hits Home” will be told in four parts starting on the next four Mondays as follows:
• April 10 — Part 1, “Kissing Everything Goodbye”
Family tells the story of young Greenville woman’s losing battle with heroin.
• April 17 — Part 2, “It’s At An Epidemic Level”
Local police agencies have seen heroin use become common.
• April 24 — Part 3, “It’s A Russian Roulette”
Naloxone distribution and use combat heroin overdose deaths.
• May 1 — Part 4, “Worth Putting Effort Into”
With help from family, Belding pastor overcame serious opioid addiction.
We hope telling these stories will remove the stigma of being an addict — or having a loved one who is an addict — and will start a community conversation about the heroin epidemic, and how we can help fight this disease.