US drugs crisis: 'Doctors kick-started my addiction by prescribing me opioids when I was nine'

Martin Geissler

Former ITV News Correspondent

Nobody in America is denying the scale of the opioid crisis. It is, to quote the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention,“the worst drugs epidemic in US history”.

But awareness doesn’t solve the problem, and, as the bodies continue to pile up in mortuaries across the country, almost everyone we’ve spoken to on the front line of this crisis bemoans the lack of action being taken at either state or federal level.

For some addicts, prison provides the only sanctuary.

In Albany County Correctional Facility, we met a group of inmates who’ve enrolled in a rehab programme.

In some respects, they fear leaving jail; too many temptations lie outside the prison walls. But they’re angry that they’ve found themselves inside at all.

Harry Brust blames his addiction on the US medical system.

He was prescribed strong opioids aged just nine, to treat a skin condition.

Before long he was seeking out stronger prescription drugs, and a heroin addiction quickly followed. He “never stood a chance”, he told me.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised a war on drugs, but almost six months into his presidency barely a shot’s been fired.

In fact, Mr Trump’s obsession with repealing Obamacare means many essential services on offer to addicts could soon disappear.

Craig Apple is the Sheriff of Albany County.

He sees the scale of the crisis laid bare. “I could have all seven hundred of my employees out there every day, dealing with nothing else”, he tells me.

"Drugs these days are cheaper, more potent and more prevalent than they’ve ever been," he added.

"You're talking about backyard chemists: these people don't know what they're doing.

"Their hopes of having a good product is it doesn't kill somebody.

"And if it kills somebody, they just move on."

He wants the law to be tightened: the dealers should be the ones in jail, he reckons, not just the poor people who’ve fallen victim to this curse.

Before we left New York, we dropped in to see Kraig Moss.

He made his first appearance on ITV News last year, an enthusiastic praise singer on the Donald Trump campaign trail.

He sold most of what he owned, packed his guitar and spent months following Trump round the states.

Mr Moss's son, Rob, died from a heroin overdose in 2014.

Trump promised to get tough on the scourge, even singling Mr Moss out at a rally, offering praise and support.

Finally, Mr Moss thought, something was being done.

But when we met him at his home near Binghamton, New York state, he cut a very different figure.

The place is empty, the bank have threatened him with repossession.

Donald Trump speaks during an opioid and drug abuse listening session at the White House in March. Credit: AP

Scattered on the floor, just a few belongings, some pictures of Rob and a small black box containing his ashes.

“I can’t let him go”, Mr Moss told me through tears.

Mr Trump betrayed him, he says. He used him to drum up votes. He’s wounded, he’s hurt and he’s angry. But he doesn’t seem too surprised.

“Politicians throughout history have conned people”, he says “Trump’s just another politician.

"He’s capable of telling you one thing and doing another, all for his personal gain. I don’t recognise that as someone who has the best interests of our country at heart”.