American Tragedy: A Look at the Opioid Epidemic

In the iconic film “The Wizard of Oz,” the Wicked Witch of the West conjures a field of red poppies to thwart Dorothy’s entry into the fabled Emerald City, and foil her return to Kansas. Today, poppies like those are inflicting a plague of opioids across America, feeding an addiction epidemic that doesn’t discriminate based on race or income, or distinguish legal drugs (like those that took the life of actress Judy Garland) from the illicit. But thanks to a partnership between Alvernia University and Caron Treatment Centers, there is hope for some, and training for the next generation of addiction counselors.


I wrote the cover story for the new issue of Alvernia Magazine looking at the national opioid epidemic through the eyes of a smart, funny woman named Jennifer who lived through the hell of addiction for two decades before finally getting clean six years ago (sadly, her brother wasn’t so lucky), and through the experiences of the dedicated professionals at Caron Treatment Center (and the faculty and staff at Alvernia University who have taught and trained many of them) who help people put their lives back together.

It’s a harrowing tale, and it’s easy to get discouraged when confronted with the devastating statistics and the damage done. But it’s also a tale of life and hope.

I’d like to thank Steve Thomas, a wonderfully gifted designer who I had the intelligence to hire for his first daily newspaper job at The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., way back in the early 1990s, for a dazzling cover design and splendid layout that surely wasn’t helped by my writing so many damn words.

It’s always nice to work with old friends. Especially when they’re really good at what they do.