It's not hard to find stories about America's heroin problem, but the Washington Post provides a riveting look through the plight of a 31-year-old Michigan woman named Amanda Wendler. She's been an addict for 11 years and thus things are dire—the average active user is dead within 10 years, writes reporter Eli Saslow. When the story begins, Wendler has to make it four days clean in order to get her first shot of naltrexone, a drug that dampens the effects of opiates and essentially makes it impossible for users to get high. Four days is a long time for Wendler. She's recently moved back in with her weary but hopeful mother, who doles out just enough money for Mountain Dew and cigarettes. Days earlier, Wendler had to have all of her teeth pulled.
The story traces her history of addiction, which began with a Vicodin prescription in high school. Does she stay clean and get the shot? If the tale sounds interesting, click the Post link and read it in full. Otherwise, the short version: Wendler cannot stay clean. She postpones her shot by five days, lying to her mom and blaming a paperwork glitch, then lies again about her plans one night so she can get high on methadone with a friend. She confesses to her mom, then asks for her mom's urine (which she provides) to give the clinic. Upon finally receiving the shot, she becomes ill—because she's not supposed to have drugs in her system—and ends up in the ER. "She was sick. She was clean. She was scared," writes Saslow. The story ends with Wendler pleading with the doctor, “Make me feel nothing.” (Read more heroin stories.)