ABC News chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas has been doing in-depth reporting across the country on the opioid epidemic, working with ABC affiliates to determine how many overdoses occurred in a week’s time — the results were worse than he ever expected.
Thomas told TheWrap “the stunning availability of opioids–be it painkillers, heroin or fentanyl” was simply shocking.
“We were on one raid in Arizona with the DEA and Tempe police and authorities recovered what they believe was $1 million worth of heroin in a working class neighborhood that could be anywhere in the U.S.,” Thomas said.
The ease of obtaining the drugs wasn’t the only thing that stunned Thomas. When speaking with family members, health care professionals and law enforcement officials, Thomas was surprised that “human loss” is such a common occurrence when studying the opioid epidemic. The crisis kills 91 Americans per day, according to their findings.
“According to the CDC, more than 30,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2015. So many lives lost and so many being ruined,” he said.
Different states have different methods of reporting and it takes time for toxicology tests, making tracking opioid overdoses extremely complex — so the number might be even higher than reported.
Thomas feels that “aggressive enforcement” is the key to stop the problem, but “many in law enforcement admit you can’t arrest your way out of this crisis.”
“There is a need for treatment and a greater push for more public awareness among many other factors,” he said.
The special edition of “Nightline” airs on Wednesday, Aug. 23 on ABC.