American Carnage, The New Landscape of Opiod Adddiction, by Christopher Caldwell

This is a long but excellent article on the nightmarish opioid addiction plaguing America. From Christopher Caldwell at

We should all be dead,” said Jonathan Goyer one bright morning in January as he looked across a room filled with dozens of his coworkers and clients. The Anchor Recovery Community Center, which Goyer helps run, occupies the shell of an office building in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Founded seven years ago, Anchor specializes in “peer-to-peer” counseling for drug addicts. With state help and private grants, Anchor throws everything but the kitchen sink at addiction. It hosts Narcotics Anonymous meetings, cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, art workshops, and personal counseling. It runs a telephone hotline and a hospital outreach program. It has an employment center for connecting newly drug-free people to sympathetic hirers, and banks of computers for those who lack them. And all the people who work here have been in the very pit of addiction—shoplifting to pay for a morning dose, selling their bodies, or dragging out their adult lives in prison. Some have been taken to emergency rooms and “hit” with powerful anti-overdose drugs to bring them back from respiratory failure.

That is how it was with Goyer. His father died of an overdose at forty-one, in 2004. His twenty-nine-year-old brother OD’d and died in 2009. When he was shooting heroin he slept on the floor of a public garage. He would pick up used hypodermic needles if they were new enough that the volume gauges inked on the outside hadn’t been rubbed off with use. He OD’d several times before getting clean in 2013. Now he visits people after overdoses and tells them, “I was right where you’re at.”

There have always been drug addicts in need of help, but the scale of the present wave of heroin and opioid abuse is unprecedented. Fifty-two thousand Americans died of overdoses in 2015—about four times as many as died from gun homicides and half again as many as died in car accidents. Pawtucket is a small place, and yet 5,400 addicts are members at Anchor. Six hundred visit every day. Rhode Island is a small place, too. It has just over a million people. One Brown University epidemiologist estimates that 20,000 of them are opioid addicts—2 percent of the population.

To continue reading: American Carnage, The New Landscape of Opiod Adddiction



4 responses to “American Carnage, The New Landscape of Opiod Adddiction, by Christopher Caldwell

  1. Some useful information – along with more than a little deeply insidious disinformation – but I would call it “excellent” only as a source of evidence that neocons are every bit as perversely wrong-headed (putting it way too politely) about drugs as they are about US foreign policy. If you want to look at a sane perspective on this issue, I strongly recommend Thomas Szasz. Here’s a good place to start.


    • I had no idea that opioid use was as widespread as it was, although here in Albuquerque I know it’s extensive. I don’t agree with Caldwell’s perspective on prohibition, but the addiction-welfare connection is insidious. People can put whatever they want in their own bodies, as long as someone else doesn’t have to directly or indirectly pay for it.


      • I live in middle Tennessee and I can tell you that it is bad here. I moved here 4 years ago and shortly after they arrested 70+ people and shutdown 2 or 3 “pain clinics”. This is in a country that has a population of less than 20,000.

        The real reason for the addiction problems in this country is a lack of Jesus. Plain and simple.

        I find it odd the author did not mention where over half of the world’s opium comes from and who controls that country. I guess if it was to stop it, the CIA would not have the money to operate the way it has been for decades,


  2. frank w. hooper

    Excellent article on the new SCOURGE thanks mostly to our takeover of Afghanistan. Before that it was COKE and hence CRACK.
    I strongly disagree with the part about not being more than a novelty in the 60’s and 70’s. It was the first real PLAGUE back then. Once we moved into Vietnam it was soon found on campuses in alleyways and bars and public parks at night. I’m not sure how the writer could have missed it.
    Most of my Nam Vet buddies did not die from a “Novelty Drug”.


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