Children of Opium

This article from the New York Times highlights the opium epidemic in the United States, arguing that opium is the cause of the increasing number of children in foster care. The article’s first sentence contains statistics, and although it does highlight a very sad personal story in the third sentence, the lead isn’t very strong.  The second paragraph is the nut graph, but contains way too much information and may be hard to follow. I did, however, think the body of the article did a good job at addressing political and governmental funding issues around the opium epidemic. The ending lacks anything of interest and ends does not leave the reader wanting to know more. I did like that the article addressed the opium “epidemic,” as some people only consider infectious diseases to be epidemics.

What would be a good ending, in order to make people interested or passionate about this topic? What are your thoughts on biases of this article? Was there little or a lot? Is there anything you would change about it?

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About sarahgirard

Student studying environment and applied statistics, spending her time following her love for the outdoors.

7 Responses to “Children of Opium”

  1. Sarah, I’m so glad you shared this link with us. Opioid addiction is an important topic, and the New York Times piece that you chose makes a powerful argument for why the government should put more money into foster care and related children’s services in response to this problem. You raise some great questions about this piece.
    One important thing to realize is that this is an editorial — that is, an opinion piece written to be persuasive. It’s not a news story of the kind we want you to write in this course, though it has a lot of the same parts, as you point out.
    Another really interesting question raised by this piece and many others about the “opioid epidemic” is: should we really use the word epidemic in describing this problem? Is opioid addiction contagious? Not in the same way that the flu or zika is contagious. But psychologists might make an argument that a wide range of social behaviors are “contagious.”
    Thank you for this interesting post, Sarah.

  2. Hi Sarah,

    I thought it was an interesting angle to talk about the politics and the flaws in the system that were contributing to this epidemic. The article discussed the intersection between how legislation is impacting families in the present and what consequences it will have on the children in the future. The article also focused more on the policy making side as opposed to appealing to the reader’s emotions with personal stories. I think that while this approach did convey her message, I often felt lost in the statistics without a story to hold on to.
    Your article reminded of one I had read a couple months earlier about pain pills and addiction and how legislation was now just beginning to tackle the issue. I thought that this article had a really strong lede by posing a dilemma faced by the author herself, who is a doctor. She also strengthened her piece by concluding with an anecdote about the patient mentioned in the beginning. She suggested that while the points she raised about limiting pain prescriptions and suggesting alternative therapies could be effective, the issue at hand was a lot more nuanced than it seemed and would require a multifaceted approach.

    http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/who-is-responsible-for-the-pain-pill-epidemic

  3. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for sharing this article. I’m particularly interested in this topic because I’m hoping to write about the recent spike in heroin abuse and overdoses in rural America. It sounds like there are a lot of parallels between opium and heroin abuse, and the angle of children in the foster care system as a result of their parents’ addictions is one I hadn’t previously considered but would like to explore more deeply for heroin. This editorial links to some great resources on the ACA and child welfare stats that I’ll look into, as well.

    I agree with you that the writing style of this article isn’t great. Like Shiv said, it feels like we’re just getting bombarded with facts. I think the beginning could be made more compelling by moving the story of the Pennsylvania couple first and expanding on its details.

    Finally, Emilia brings up an interesting point about using the word “epidemic” to describe behaviors such as drug use. I’m so used to hearing about the “obesity epidemic,” “epidemics of violence,” and others that I guess I’ve expanded my personal definition to include any large spike in occurrences a problem. I found this article which describes how drug use can be epidemic in that it spreads like a communicable disease: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-choice/201612/drug-use-epidemic-phenomena I’m still not sure where I personally fall in this debate but want to get it figured out before I write a news feature on the “heroin epidemic.”

  4. Sarah, I agree that the ending does not have much to offer and detracts from the article as a whole. The author brings up a good point towards the end about the Affordable Care Act, but I think more could be written about it. A better ending could expand on ACA and other major threats to the opioid epidemic and highlight trends of what these threats could lead to.

    The article could also use some quotes and facts from public health leaders and mental health professionals to add to the severity of this epidemic. Another way to strengthen this article would be to give the statistics on what percentage of the 8% jump in foster care is contributed to opioid use, and statistics showing the parts of the US this epidemic has effected the most.

  5. I would agree that this story could start stronger, given that it has a subject so emotionally charged. If the author had started with the specific story of the family and followed that with the facts, I think it could’ve hooked more readers. You make a good point about it containing too much information, and I think that carries an important question of how does one know how much information is the right amount for a nut graph? For the other article, many felt it had too little, so I find that interesting. I think if this article had ended with maybe a quote from the government in the 80s and 90s about the epidemic, it would be a good dramatic close, to really bring the point home that we should not repeat our same mistakes. Also, I think there is definitely a bias given that it is an opinion piece, but it was still interesting to me, and contained important facts to support its points.

  6. Hi Sarah,

    I thought that this article was a strong editorial piece; in three sentences, the first paragraph alone presents both compelling statistics and a heart-wrenching example of the article’s focus, young victims (children) of the opioid epidemic. I also think that the use of hyperlinks throughout any article, including this one, serve to strengthen a piece by directly providing further evidence/information to a reader who may require more background on a subject.

    In terms of Emilia’s post regarding the use of the word “epidemic” to refer to our nation’s opioid crisis, I believe that the term is fitting for the specific reason that drug use does seem in many ways to be “contagious.” I heard a piece on NPR yesterday that cited the story of Melissa Morris, a woman from a small town in Colorado who suffers from opioid addiction. It explores the idea that because individuals living in rural areas tend to have larger social circles compared to those in urban ones, behavior such as recreational drug use can spread more quickly to more people, eventually leading to the crisis we face today. I think that this is a compelling area of focus when discussing the issue of opioid use in America.

    http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/01/23/511217396/rural-colorados-opioid-connections-might-hold-clues-to-better-treatment

  7. Sarah,
    This is a pressing issue which I believe is very important to continue a dialogue on. I also believe that in many ways the article left some to be desired. One of the crucial premises of the article was that the opioid crisis is indeed getting worse. The statistic on overdoses does not provide a comprehensive backup for that assumption. If the author spent more time convincing the reader that the problem is growing, the rest of the article would have been instilled with a greater sense of urgency.
    The ending of the article is also colored with a clear political opinion. Though the treatment of the crisis is in many ways a partisan issue, it may have been a better choice to more broadly cover how health care laws have dealt with opioids in addition to covering its politics. The article also did not cover how the crisis has affected different racial and socioeconomic groups, nor explore what is driving greater rates of overdoses. For instance, is the way doctors prescribe opioids changing? Great choice!
    Ian

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