Hitting Rock Bottom

TLOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 24: Lisa Rogers, a homeless woman, carries her tent as she relocates her camp on January 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Los Angeles has the highest number of homeless people in the nation with close to 13,000 living on the streets. The annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count begins today and will continue through Thursday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

To begin with, there are a hell of a lot more than 13,000 homeless living on the streets of Los Angeles. I would put the number at close to 5-10 times that many. I have just finished reading Sam Quinones’s excellent book The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth, from which the following paragraph is taken:

We used to believe people needed to hit rock bottom before seeking treatment. That’s another idea made obsolete by our addiction crisis and the current synthetic drug supply. It belongs to an era when drugs of choice were merciful. Nowadays people are living in tents, screaming at unseen demons, raped, pimped, beaten, unshowered, and unfed. That would seem to be rock bottom. Yet it’s not enough to persuade people to get treatment. In Columbus, Ohio, Giti Mayton remembers a meth addict who was hospitalized with frostbitten, gangrenous hands, yet who left the hospital in midwinter to find more dope. San Francisco and Philadelphia, two cities with years of experience with heroin, are seeing users homeless and dying like never before. The dope is different now. Today, rock bottom is death.