By MADHURA NADARAJAH
By now everyone has probably seen a gruesome photo circulating Facebook of two adults passed out from overdosing on drugs as a child sits in the backseat of their car. The incident occurred early this month and took place in East Liverpool, Ohio. Officers were following a Ford Explorer because it was weaving erratically on the streets; the Ford eventually stopped when it drifted to the side of the road. Officers later identified the driver as James Accord, 49. According to the Ohio Police Department, Accord was babbling in an incomprehensible manner that he needed to take his passenger Rhonda Pasek, 50, to the hospital. Pasek was already unconscious and on the verge of turning blue when the police stopped the vehicle. The paramedics eventually arrived and gave Accord and Pasek the drug known as Narcan — a drug that reverses the effects of opiates. In addition to the opiates that were already in the bloodstreams of Accord and Pasek, police uncovered heroin in the car as well. However, the most disturbing sight that came from this incident was that Pasek’s 4-year-old son was in the backseat of the car. City officials, who were so nauseated by this blood-curdling site, decided to release the photos from the crime report to social media and news outlets.
The city of East Liverpool released the photo on their Facebook page, in conjunction with the official affidavit. According to the statement attached to the documents, East Liverpool’s city of administration, the police officers, and the law director jointly consented to posting the photo and incident report online. Due to the epidemic of drug users in the state of Ohio, officials believed that posting the photo will enlist fear into drug users. In addition, by using the fear approach, city officials wanted the photo to hit home with users that have young children in their care. The city of East Liverpool posted, “This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.”
While the majority of the general audience agrees that the intentions behind posting the photo was benign, the execution stirs feelings of ambivalence among the public. I, for one, believe that the photo only provides a single, stereotypical story of drug users. In the case with overdosed parents with a child in the backseat, the city of East Liverpool casts drug users under one light, which is that they are all selfish individuals who put others in danger.
Many individuals, who either have a past with drug use or work in rehabs, believe that the photo does a disservice to addicts who are trying to rehabilitate. A source who wished not to be identified due to his/her occupation believes “that while the picture had good intention, coming from a wellness perspective, the picture does not help individuals rehabilitate; it gives the false idea that this is the face of addicts everywhere.”
I am about to enter dangerous territory in stating that the city of East Liverpool, in conjunction with fostering a single story, employed the slippery slope fallacy with the photo. They impressed the idea to users and non-users that anyone who uses drugs will eventually be overdosed in a car with an innocent individual in the backseat. Now with that said, I am not remarking that this is not a possible outcome for drug users; however, I do feel that the fear accompanied by the photos will make users stop cold turkey — which is not only extremely dangerous but can also be deadly. Stopping drugs cold turkey is highly dangerous because it makes individuals suffer hallucinations; these episodes can even make individuals cause harm to themselves or to others.
However, many individuals stand by the city of East Liverpool and proclaim that what they did was right. Another source who wished not to be identified for personal reasons claims that “the photo was needed to educate the public with the reality of the drug epidemic in the United States. Like the city of East Liverpool said, people being insulted by the graphic nature of the photo should not be a priority because people needed to realize the consequences that their choices may have on others.”
Regardless of what your stance is on whether the photo should have been released or not, the main point I think the city of East Liverpool was trying to establish is that a change needs to occur. Whether that change is found through stricter drug laws or better rehabilitation facilities, we shouldn’t be sitting around stereotyping all drug users — we should be focusing on getting something done so another child’s life is not ruined.