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Sleepers on the subway

In a crowded, busy city with a drug problem, it’s important to notice that person slumped on the floor

Sleepers on the subway

An unidentified man, right, sleeps inside a passageway at the Penn Station subway in New York (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

A New York moment: 

For the last few years, I’ve been covering the opioid crisis, which now is more properly called the drug crisis because it encompasses substances from fentanyl to benzodiazepines. Ads in the New York City subway now describe the ways to recognize an overdose: pupils are dilated, skin is bluish, or the person is unconscious or has shallow breathing or makes gurgling sounds. If you can make it to the person with a spray of the overdose reversal drug Narcan (naloxone), you may save a life. 

The reversal drug is more ubiquitous now, and that’s partly why overdose deaths are down 5 percent this year. The numbers are still bad, and experts aren’t sure the deaths will trend downward long-term, but it’s a relief to see any scrap of good news. 

Reporting on overdose deaths and meeting overdose survivors has made me more aware of those around me in the city who might be overdosing. That person slumped on the street? It’s easy to think he is just sleeping. One time I did call 911 when I found someone curled up and unmoving on the subway platform floor, but the man turned out to be in a deep sleep. The responding police officers still said I had done the right thing, and said not to try to wake someone up if you’re not sure. 

Now that my eyes are open to the drug crisis, I see its effects regularly. I see people shooting up on the street. In my local public library, a man with track marks on his arm next to me was barely breathing. The librarians had experience with overdoses and knew what to do. 

Another time, I got off the train and two men were unconscious on the platform, one draped crazily over a bench and the other sprawled on the floor. Commuters flowed past and stepped around the two—so many crazy things happen in the subway every day that I can’t blame them. I went and talked to the station manager, who had already called for help. (Do subway station managers have Narcan? They should.) EMTs showed up in a few moments and got to work on the men. 

The first responders in these situations seem very matter-of-fact, like they see overdoses all the time—which they do. One day addiction won’t be so prevalent, but until then it’s good to keep a weather eye on your fellow city dwellers, who may be alone in their addiction and in their overdosing.

Worth your time: 

Previous reports have shown that the state of New York appears to have abused an investment-for-green-cards program that was supposed to benefit low-income communities. The state gerrymandered the investment benefit zones, drawing public housing into wealthy development areas like Hudson Yards so it looked like investments were going to low-income communities, when they were really benefiting the wealthiest of the city. Now it appears that the Trump administration has changed the regulations to remove states’ authority to draw the districts. Whether that will lead to fair play by the federal government is another question. 

This week I learned:

As Democrats attain higher and higher degrees of education, their perception of Republicans becomes more and more inaccurate, according to a recent study from the Hidden Tribes Project. 

“This effect is so strong that Democrats without a high school diploma are three times more accurate than those with a postgraduate degree,” the report says. 

The report has plenty more tidbits on our polarized nation, and came to me courtesy of Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope newsletter, which I find useful and enjoyable. 

A court case you might not know about: 

There’s a lawsuit over the elevators in the New Yorker Hotel. But what I find most interesting about this case is that the Unification Church owns the hotel! 

Culture I am consuming: 

This delightful “morning rush hour” at a farm in the United Kingdom.

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