2019 Photo Contest, Contemporary Issues, Stories, 3rd Prize

Faces of an Epidemic


Philip Montgomery

for The New Yorker

08 September, 2018

Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Elam (24) cries while discussing her family’s history with addiction, outside her home in Drexel, Ohio, USA. Both of her parents are addicted to heroin, and she began using at the age of 16.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people a day in the US die after overdosing on opioids. President Donald Trump has declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. The crisis has its roots in the 1990s, when pharmaceutical companies assured doctors that opioid pain relievers were not addictive. The firm Purdue Pharma, in particular, has been accused of aggressive marketing even when the effects of opioids were known. Increased prescription of opioids such as Oxycontin led to widespread misuse. Some people switched to heroin, which was cheaper, and later to synthetic opioids, which are more potent and more likely to lead to a fatal overdose. 


Philip Montgomery

Philip Montgomery is a native Californian living in New York City for the past decade. His work examines the social issues of our time, utilizing observational strategies of...

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