The Minford High School Class of 2000, in rural Minford, Ohio, began its freshman year as a typical class. It had its jocks and its cheerleaders, its slackers and its overachievers.
But by the time the group entered its final year, its members said, painkillers were nearly ubiquitous, found in classrooms, school bathrooms and at weekend parties.
Over the next decade, Scioto County, which includes Minford, would become ground zero in the state’s fight against opioids. It would lead Ohio with its rates of fatal drug overdoses, drug-related incarcerations and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
To understand both the scope and the devastating consequences of what is now a public health crisis, we talked to dozens of members of the Class of 2000. Many opened up to us about struggles with addiction, whether their own or their relatives’. They told us about the years lost to getting high and in cycling in and out of jail, prison and rehab. They mourned the three classmates whose addictions killed them.
In all of the interviews, one thing was clear: Opioids have spared relatively no one in Scioto County; everyone appears to know someone whose life has been affected by addiction.
Purdue Pharma introduced its opioid painkiller, OxyContin, in 1996, when the Class of 2000 entered high school. Some students began experimenting, often combining prescription opiates with alcohol at parties.
For many, what started as a weekend dalliance morphed swiftly into an all-consuming dependence. They swallowed opiates before school, snorted painkillers in the bathrooms and crushed up pills with a baseball on desks at the back of classrooms.
Ohio was Ground Zero for the opioid crisis, and Minford and Scioto County was the epicenter. For decades now the area has been fighting addiction and the horrors it caused.
And it wasn't the cities, it wasn't the gangs, it was the pharmaceutical companies.
Corporate America destroyed a generation with painkillers and appetite pills.
Never forget that.