On March 5, 2018 TIME magazine published a special report on the opioid epidemic called “The Opioid Diaries“. This issue addresses the opioid crisis over a range of states and cities, illustrated exclusively in the stunning black and white photography of James Nachtwey. The TIME issue goes through a series of quotes, photos and first-person narratives that challenge stigmas and provide the reader with new perspectives.
“I got in a car accident and was in the hospital three or four months. At first, I took it for the pain as prescribed, as needed. I started to like the buzz I began taking more than I was supposed to. Then a family member introduced me to heroin, and I actually cried at first because I didn’t feel any pain. All it takes is one time.”-Cassandra Blasingame, The Opioid Diaries, TIME (p.4)
The issue is brought to life with quotes such as these, gripping and emotional. While the photos by James Nachtwey illustrate the painful side of “addict”; they are juxtaposed with the quotes and stories from the interviewees. The perspective of the person behind the addiction–challenges what people think they know.
Anyone could be in an accident. Anyone could be prescribed addictive pain-killers. Anyone can find themselves struggling with addiction, or trying to escape pain.
“It’s hard to fathom and bitterly ironic; the depth of the suffering caused by drugs whose ostensible purpose is to alleviate pain.”
-(“From the Editors” The Opioid Diaries TIME (p.14))
The effort to alleviate chronic pain is a tale as old as time. The emergence, or reemergence, of the opioid epidemic, is a part of that adage. But we have the privilege of incredible technology and data tools that can accelerate the way we analyze and understand the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, weak data and a lack of protocol lead to lack of organization and accountability. The 1Life Project recognizes this is unacceptable.
The opioid epidemic is just a a health outbreak, easily tracked and analyzed by statistical factors. Visualized data can portray those complex multi-dimensional variables and provide the insight that saves lives. The National Opioid Data Center will connect facilities and community responders so they can be in the right place, at the right time, with the right medicine, following up with the appropriate treatment. Together we can make informed decisions about the opioid crisis. Let’s save lives with data.