Evolution of the opioid epidemic

- In the United States of the 1960s and 1970s, the heroin epidemic was concentrated in inner cities in nonwhite communities of Harlem, the South Bronx, and central Brooklyn, according to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the chief medical officer of Phoenix House. But today's epidemic is very different: it's white, suburban, and rural.

This is not the black exploitation films of the past. It's a different story, but I'm still not sure who the winners are.

I'm just off of 124th Street and Lennox Avenue in Harlem. It's cold and rainy. People dart through the streets. I'm trying to find someone who can give me a better understanding of how heroin has changed over the last 40 years.

I find Mathew Kraus and two friends outside a methadone clinic. They are late. The center is closed. One is crying. They need their fix. They are the new face of heroin addiction. Matthew is from Long Island -- a safe, white, suburban, maybe even privileged place. He says family connections got him a job making $20,000 a month on Wall Street. Then his life unraveled into chaos. He says he got hooked on oxycodone after a bad accident. He says his wife started using it too and then started shooting dope.

Dr. Kolodny is executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. He says the epidemic has been caused by the medical community over-prescribing pain medicine.

I continue my search for knowledge about heroin in Harlem. It was an inner-city issue, and the face was black or brown. But as the color has changed and so have the treatment options.

Matthew tells me he gets methadone treatment 6 days a week for the last 5 years. Despite the birth of twin boys and attempts to get clean, Matthew's story is one of tragedy. His wife didn't make it: she died after taking some heroin and Xanax.

The new Pusherman is the pharmaceutical companies. They're the real winners. Everyone else is just trying to pick up the pieces.
 

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