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The presidential candidates may have been late in addressing the scourge of cheap heroin ravaging American communities, but news and documentary producers have been on the topic for a while.
ABC’s David Muir and his producers at 20/20 began working on Breaking Point: Heroin in America, which premieres Friday at 10 p.m., more than a year ago. The result is a bracing and heartbreaking account of the effects of cheap heroin and rampant prescription pain medication, which Muir characterizes as “a perfect storm” that claims more 100 lives every day.
“The numbers are staggering,” says Muir, who notes that the families profiled in the hourlong program are “trying to sound the alarm” about an “epidemic that knows no boundaries. It touches rich, poor, middle class.” Indeed, the skyrocketing rates of overdoses and deaths have begun to change the national conversation from criminalizing drug users to treating them. It’s an issue that has resonated in the presidential debates as well.
The ABC News team decided to focus on New Hampshire in part because the state has among the highest rates of deaths from overdoses and ranks 49th among all states in access to treatment. (New England is an area Muir knows well, having come to ABC News in New York from WCVB, the ABC affiliate in Boston.)
Among those profiled in the piece are a young husband and wife who start rehab together, a paramedic who teaches middle school children how to inject a life-saving opioid antidote and nurses caring for newborns addicted to heroin. The hour also focuses on law enforcement’s evolving attitudes toward drug users, from seeing them as criminals to seeing them as victims.
Says Muir: “I think there’s a key moment in this hour that will have our viewers asking, can we as a country prosecute our way out of this problem?”
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