On a single weekend in June 2021, seven people died of drug overdoses in Rochester, New York. On that Saturday morning, three adults were found dead on a front porch on a quiet, residential street. Inside the house were six orphaned children. Lab tests showed that the lethal agent was heroin laced with xylazine, a powerful horse tranquilizer.
As we look forward to emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, America remains in the grip of an epidemic of deaths from drug overdose, suicide, and alcohol poisoning. The epidemic began in the mid-1990s and is still escalating: The CDC estimates that 2020 saw ninety-three thousand drug overdose deaths, a 30 percent increase from 2019 and the highest total ever recorded.