PBS NewsHour to Launch America Addicted Series Exploring the Nation’s Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC (SEPTEMBER 29, 2017) – PBS NewsHour and PBS NewsHour Weekend will next week launch an ambitious multi-part series across all platforms including broadcast segments to air over the course of two weeks as well as online and social reports exploring the nation’s opioid crisis, what’s driving it, and effective strategies for combatting it.

From first responder burnout and service shortages to reducing opioid prescriptions and a high school for teenagers in recovery, NewsHour correspondents, reporters and producers across beats travelled throughout the United States for months to explore all sides of this epidemic that is killing up to 65,000 Americans each year.

The series, to include reporting as part of weekly segments Leading Edge with Miles O’Brien, Making Sen$e with Paul Solman, Brief but Spectacular by Steve Goldbloom and Zach Land-Miller, and an IMHO essay, launches on Twitter this afternoon at 1pm ET with a #NewsHourChats to explore opioid use and substance abuse. The conversation continues on NewsHour Facebook Monday at 12:30pm ET with series correspondents William Brangham and Pamela Kirkland discussing their reporting with NewsHour executive producer Sara Just during a LIVE conversation to include audience Q&A.

On Monday, October 2, PBS NewsHour in partnership with Marist College Institute for Public Opinion will release a poll of American perceptions of the opioid crisis, from how bad has it gotten in respondent communities and whether it has affected them or their loved ones directly, to what Americans think is driving this public health crisis and how effective respondents think efforts by President Trump and Congress are to stemming this epidemic.

Online, the America Addicted landing page will highlight a different story and statistic about the crisis each night. Users can navigate through chapters that focus on The Problem, The Drugs, The Treatments and New Approaches, as well as find long-form reporting on medically-assisted treatment and NICU babies on opioid withdrawal, video and print explainers on how opioids affect the brain and ways to dispose of pain medication, and a column on how to talk to your kids about opioids.

A tentative schedule for NewsHour’s broadcast segments is listed below. Follow along on social with the hashtag #AmericaAddicted.

Monday, October 2: Community on the Edge
In Huntington, W.Va., we see how the opioid crisis has left its mark on one small city, producing first-responder burnout; overflowing courts, hospitals and foster care networks; and overdose rates that have caught national attention.

Tuesday, October 3: Rehab High
Part of combating the opioid epidemic is getting to potential addicts before they start a lifelong habit. Hope Academy in Indianapolis aims to do just that. It is a small high school that caters to teenagers who are trying to stay clean.

Saturday, October 7: Taking the Drug Makers to Court
Chris Bury reports from Ohio where the state that leads the nation in opioid-related deaths is pointing the finger at the companies that make the drugs by suing them to recoup the costs the crisis has had on healthcare and public safety.

Sunday, October 8: Treating Opioid Addiction Behind Bars
Five jails in Kentucky, one of the epicenters of America’s opioid epidemic, are experimenting with treating addicts while they are incarcerated – and showing promising results. We’ll meet corrections officials and inmates trapped in a cycle of addiction, from painkillers to heroin, who see the light at the end of the tunnel behind bars. Megan Thompson reports.

The Science of Pain
As we struggle to reverse the tide of opiate addiction and overdose, there’s a growing focus on understanding just what pain is, and finding new ways to treat it. In this story, we’ll meet patients trying virtual reality games and hypnosis and other alternative methods of treating pain, and researchers trying to better understand the way that pain is generated and moderated in the brain.

Fatal Fentanyl
Fentanyl a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than morphine that’s increasingly found laced in heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and is driving the current wave in the opioid epidemic. We look at how the drug works, how it comes into the U.S. and what is being done on the ground to deal with it.

Window into Addiction Treatment
When active users decide to get treatment, there’s often a shortage of services. That’s where Anchor Recovery steps in — an innovative program in Rhode Island enlisting former drug users as navigators for addiction treatment.

Best Practices
For years, New Mexico has been at both the epicenter of its own opioid crisis and at the forefront of states developing innovative solutions to combat the problem. While improvements have been seen in places like hard-hit Rio Arriba County, addiction and overdose death rates remain high, and illegal drugs continue saturating the region.

How to Treat Chronic Pain Without Opioids
How doctors and health systems are trying to reduce the number of prescriptions while also effectively managing chronic pain.

Poems on the Opioid Crisis
Jeff Brown talks to William Brewer who has written a series of poems exploring the opioid epidemic in Appalachia.

Brief But Spectacular
People in long term recovery from a wide variety of backgrounds talk about their battles to overcome addiction.

IMHO Essay
The mother of an addict in recovery talks about how she had to let go of the shame of being a parent of an addict in order to help her child.