I'm afraid to write about heroin and opioid addiction. I live in a place where the disease has touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people, and I'm afraid that writing about the problem won't do them or the issue justice. Over the past six years as a newspaper editor, I've been involved with several heroin-related projects, and all the while I hoped the stories were being told as succinctly and clearly as possible. The stakes are too high to leave room for ambiguity.
For two years now, the first thing I do when I get to the office is scan the North Jersey police blotters and the obituaries for familiar names. More often than not, I find one--a former classmate, a teammate, a friend of a friend.
The narrative of how things got to be this dire is familiar. I don't need to revisit it. But what bears mentioning is that I didn't fathom the depth of the heartbreak, the sense of loss and destruction that the disease has caused until I sat at the back of a funeral home and saw it written on human faces. I saw the holes addiction had bored through them all. And writing this now, I can see dozens of those holes torn through my hometown--thousands through hometowns from here to Maine.
I will never forget that. I hope we can see the situation for what it is: a disease that has reached epidemic status. This is a public-health crisis, and it's going to take public action to fix it.