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The Opioid Epidemic Becomes Real for the New York Times Set

State of the Union: The overdoses will continue until morals improve.

Male Heroin Addict
(powerofforever/Getty Images)

For reasons largely mysterious and lost to the passage of years, instead of using my all-too-swift youth in gainful pursuits, I got an MFA in fiction at New York University. I am not sure I would do it again, but I don’t think it’s in my top quintile of regrets, either. Like other youthful phases—learning Sanskrit, weightlifting, drinking Southern Comfort—it just seemed like the thing to do at the time.

At the end of my program, I tried to sell my novel to the unimpressed agents who were hauled in by the administration to talk to us every April. One of them asked me to explain the contemporary relevance of my book, and I made some broad gestures toward various modish social conditions at the time, including the opioid abuse epidemic. She told me that the opioid epidemic wasn’t real—it was a statistical fiction, and it might be racist to think it was actually happening. I was astonished. Needless to say, she didn’t agree to represent my book.


I was put in mind of this conversation when I saw in yesterday’s New York Times a short article—accompanied by a slideshow and video online—about how to administer Narcan, the brand name of naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug that was just approved for over-the-counter distribution. The number of overdose deaths has continued to rise, and apparently the paper of record feels it’s important for its readership of bien pensant Acela-corridor liberals to know how to deal with dying junkies. Do you think the opioid epidemic is real now, Anjali?


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