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.