Another Overdose Is Startling Reminder of the Nation’s Crisis

The drug epidemic affects everyone, as seen in the death of Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s son.

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America’s drug epidemic is in the news spotlight again as Nashville Mayor Megan Barry lost her only son to an overdose over the weekend. Barry and her husband “received news that no parents should ever have to hear” on Sunday morning, according to a statement released by the couple. Though the substance in question is not known, more than 60 percent of drug overdose deaths involve an opioid, according to the CDC 

The New York Times estimates that 59,000 to 65,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, and this year’s number will likely climb even higher. The statistics — while substantial — cannot impart the suffering of parents, teachers, children, and others who are losing their loved ones to the worst drug crisis this country has ever seen.  

The problem is severe, but not necessarily new. The Post story “My Son Is a Dope Addict” details a mother’s grim experience with heroin in the family in 1952. Her otherwise talented and loving teenage son sells off their possessions and leaves nightly to get his “jolt.” The story offers a comprehensive view of how opioids can wreck a household even if there isn’t an overdose. The nameless narrator watches her teenager slowly fade from her until she is told, “you’d better forget you have a son.”  

The harrowing tale came before addiction was so alive in the public consciousness, and certainly before prescription opioid sales nearly quadrupled in 16 years (1999 to 2015). The American nightmare it depicts — one of deception, doubt, financial burden, and grief — is a prescient report that remains relevant as addiction in the country continues to rise.  

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Read “My Son is a Dope Addict,” by Cameron Cornell. Published January 26, 1952 in the Post.

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Comments

  1. I read the entire 1952 POST feature here online, and found it to be terrifying and gut wrenching. As bad as I felt for the son, I felt worse for his mother. It’s an even worse problem today of course, but at least there’s a much stronger awareness of it, and resources for help.

    I’m sure plenty of POST readers at the time were shaken to the core upon reading it, and very likely was their first awareness of the problem at all. There’s no happy ending here either. Being told you need to forget you have a son (because he’s going to die soon) is more haunting than it ending with him being found dead.

    The fact that everything in this country has become so insane and stressful is only going to increase these addictions in the coming years. Although heroin is one of the most extreme addictions, over consumption of coffee and toxic energy drinks in a futile attempt to “keep up 24/7” is much more widespread and equally serious. I’m not a machine and refuse to fall into that trap.

    Although it’s never publicly admitted, by and large Americans really DON’T have respect for sleep, quiet time, down time, etc. “Entertainment” is largely over stimulation saturation of pyrotechnics and violence. Getting ‘addicted’ to a healthier, calmer lifestyle and avoiding what society says you should do is a positive coping mechanism to offset these negative forces you can’t control otherwise anyway.

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