The Overdose Video: America’s Latest Genre of Horror Film

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Drug addicted people passed out, actively overdosing, have recently become the subject of police and amateur videographers in America. The lurid footage — often including the children of the drug addicted for heightened effect — gets posted on YouTube and other social media channels and naturally invites the cruel, nasty, mean-spirited comments you’d expect from an anonymous online mob ready to judge without even a cursory understanding of who the user is or what they’ve endured thus far.

Capturing video of someone at the worst possible moment of their lives sure seems like a gross indignity and invasion of privacy, and as Katharine Q. Seelye, Julie Turkewitz, Jack Healy, and Alan Blinder report at the New York Times, the public shaming and humiliation has had mixed results in encouraging the drug addicted to get help and get clean. The videos do have one lasting effect: a source of shame users’ children will have to endure for the rest of their lives.

In Lawrence, Mass., a former mill town at the heart of New England’s opioid crisis, the police chief released a particularly gut-wrenching video. It showed a mother who had collapsed from a fentanyl overdose sprawled out in the toy aisle of a Family Dollar while her sobbing 2-year-old daughter tugged at her arm.

“It’s heartbreaking,” James Fitzpatrick, who was the Lawrence police chief at the time, told reporters in September 2016. “This is definitely evidence that shows what addiction can do to someone.”

Mandy McGowan, 38, knows that. She was the mother unconscious in that video, the woman who became known as the “Dollar Store Junkie.” But she said the video showed only a few terrible frames of a complicated life.

Ms. McGowan had only seen snippets of the video on the news. But two months later, she watched the whole thing. She felt sick with regret.

“I see it, and I’m like, I was a piece of freaking [expletive],” she said. “That was me in active use. It’s not who I am today.”

But she also wondered: Why didn’t anyone help her daughter? She was furious that bystanders seemed to feel they had license to gawk and record instead of comforting her screaming child.

“I know what I did, and I can’t change it,” she said. “I live with that guilt every single day. But it’s also wrong to take video and not help.”

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