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The nation’s opioid epidemic shows no signs of abating—and in fact may be headed in a far more dangerous direction.
That’s the conclusion of journalist David Armstrong, who has been chronicling the scourge this year for STAT, a new health and medicine website. Armstrong has written about how heroin and, increasingly, fentanyl have overtaken narcotic painkillers as the drugs of choice for addicts — presenting new challenges for law enforcement and health professionals.
In the past few months, Armstrong has told the story of two best friends in Ohio who became addicted to heroin and what happened when one of them died in 2015 after taking drugs supplied by the other. He’s also written about an eerie photo released by an Ohio police department showing a little boy strapped into his car seat while two adults in the front seat are passed out from overdoses.
Armstrong’s news organization, STAT, has also gone back in time to understand the roots of the epidemic. It filed motions to unseal court records from the 1990s and 2000s to learn more about how drug companies marketed their painkillers and got Americans hooked. The news organization won a motion in Kentucky to unseal court records, a decision that’s under appeal by Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. STAT had more success in West Virginia, where it obtained records showing how Abbott Laboratories helped Purdue market OxyContin to doctors — including giving one doctor a box full of donuts shaped to spell out “OxyContin.”
We talked to Armstrong last week. Highlights are below, edited for length and clarity.