Addiction and Drug Use

Courtesy of Barbara Allen

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Barbara Allen’s life became more complicated overnight.

Allen, 39, lives in Springfield, Illinois, where she cares for people who have disabilities and live in group homes. As an essential worker, she never stopped working full-time. Then schools closed and she was forced to navigate virtual learning with seven children at home. (She’s raising her three sons plus her sister’s children — ranging from kindergarten through high school).

Paige Pfleger / Side Effects Public Media

Christopher has been struggling with addiction since he was 14. He uses heroin, and he says things have been hard since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Photo by Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media.

Communities across the Midwest have been devastated by the opioid epidemic. But there's still a lot of misunderstanding about how opioids affect our bodies. A new and unusual museum exhibit is tackling this issue. 

Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media

A wide range of healthcare issues drew headlines in 2019, affecting the lives of millions of Americans. Here are some highlights from Side Effects Public Media's coverage across the Midwest:

Vaping. In the second half of the year, this crisis exploded onto America's consciousness. 

Photo by Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media.

It’s a Friday evening and a dozen or so people -- men, women, teenagers, little kids -- are gathered at TITLE Boxing Club. It’s an upscale boxing studio near a largely vacant shopping mall on Indianapolis' northside. 

Photo by Paige Pfleger / Side Effects Public Media.

At first glance, the people inside Franklin County Municipal Court room 13C have little in common. There’s a man in cutoff jean shorts with tattooed arms. Behind him sits a younger woman with freckles who looks like she came from soccer practice.

The group is bound together by circumstance: All were addicted to opioids and got in trouble with the law.

'Dopesick' Author Beth Macy On Opioids, Trump And More

Aug 30, 2019

Journalist Beth Macy has chronicled the origins of the opioid crisis in Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America.

In the new paperback edition's discussion guide, she argues again for greater emphasis on medical treatment for addicts.And she discussed President Trump, lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and other issues in an interview with The Daily Yonder, which covers rural America. For some excerpts, read on.

Jason was hallucinating. He was withdrawing from drugs at an addiction treatment center near Indianapolis, and he had hardly slept for several days.

"He was reaching for things, and he was talking to Bill Gates and he was talking to somebody else I'm just certain he hasn't met," his mother, Cheryl, says. She remembers finding Jason lying on the floor of the treatment center in late 2016. "I would just bring him blankets because they didn't have beds or anything."

Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Bouncing on a purple exercise ball, Alyssa talks to her new teacher about what classes she needs to graduate.  "There’s a Psychology 1 as an elective, I would take that, but I already took psychology and sociology... And I feel like Heartland in general is a psychology class," she says, laughing.

Communities React To E-Cigarette Use Among Teens

Jun 3, 2019
Robin Tate Rockel/Side Effects Public Media

In the past year the number of teens using e-cigarettes has increased by 78 percent and experts are worried. Side Effects Public Media’s Araceli Gomez-Aldana spoke with WFYI’s All Things Considered Host Matt Pelsor about the rising numbers.

Leigh DeNoon

As the opioid epidemic continues, hospitals are looking for new ways to treat pain and combat addiction. At Indiana University Health, which has 16 hospitals across the state, that means change. They’re cutting back on opioid prescriptions and giving more advice to patients.

Lisa Gillespie/Side Effects Public Media

Getting to Anne Polston’s house is a journey: first, you have to get to Liberty, a town about two hours southeast of Louisville. Then, there’s a winding eight-mile road that’s largely one-lane, and sometimes just gravel.

The opioid epidemic has ravaged cities across the United States. And just a couple of years ago, Dayton, Ohio, had one of the nation’s worst overdose death rates. Now, overdose deaths have decreased, and Ohioans impacted by addiction are sharing stories of hope.

Credit Sebastián Martínez Valdivia/Side Effects Public Media

About 15 miles southwest of St. Louis is Fenton City Park. It’s pretty unremarkable, with picnic shelters, softball fields, and flags waving gently from a memorial to fallen soldiers. This is where Kevin Mullane sought refuge as he struggled with an opioid addiction.

Paige Pfleger/Side Effects Public Media

The Columbus, Ohio, area has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. And local judges say their courtrooms are jammed with misdemeanor cases that are tied to addiction. Eager for solutions, they're turning to a  treatment clinic in an unlikely location.

WFYI

Storytellers from Side Effects series SOBER: Stories of Recovery and Hope joined WFYI's No Limits program to discuss the importance of sharing their experiences to help others in the recovery community.

Listen to the full conversation on WFYI, and read the stories on Side Effects.

Lauren Bavis/Side Effects Public Media

In 2018, Side Effects covered community struggles with public health crises, barriers to treatment and clever workarounds to get vulnerable people the care they need. 

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