The U.S. opioid epidemic rages on. The latest official estimates say more than 70,000*. Provisional drug overdose death counts for the year ended June 2018, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on data available Jan. 1, 2019. Provisional counts are subject to change and may underestimate final counts people died from drug overdoses in the year that ended in June 2018 – nearly 200 victims a day. Most of the toll – about two-thirds – involves pain pills, heroin and – increasingly – the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. Drug overdoses are the top cause of death for adults under 50. And as bad as the estimates seem, researchers say actual overdose deaths may be 20 to 35 percent higher.


VOA journalists Chris Simkins and Jeff Swicord spent all of 2018 documenting stories from the epidemic’s front lines. Their series, “The Damage Done”, follows Americans in three cities – Miami, Philadelphia, and Nashville, N.C. – where lives and neighborhoods have been tragically transformed by heroin and other opioid drugs. 


The Unwanted Series

The Unwanted | Episode 1

Police move in to clear out encampments of addicts in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. Now, the question is: Where will they go next?

The Unwanted | Episode 2

While Kensington residents argue whether addiction is a disease or a choice, recovering user Britt Carpenter, with Philly Unknown, tries to save street addicts from themselves

The Unwanted | Episode 3

Overdoses skyrocket in the aftermath of Kensington’s mass evictions. Meantime, Eric emerges from rehab transformed.

The Unwanted | Episode 4

 After wavering for months, Kelly takes a huge step into housing while the mayor defends forced evacuations of homeless addicts in Kensington. 

The Unwanted | Episode 5

Eric stumbles back onto the street, while Kelly struggles on methadone. With addicts evicted from under all Kensington’s bridges, Britt reflects on the neighborhood’s future.