Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Painful Case

Wednesday's Times front-page story, “Ohio CountyLosing Its Young to Painkillers’ Grip,” illustrates a sad and strangely futuristic trend through the description of a single, painful case. The first thing that grabs you about the piece is the arresting headline. Alcohol and drugs are not uncommon news items, but it’s less common to talk about painkillers. Soma was the fictional drug that helped people flee a harsh reality in Brave New World (1932). But the very real OxyContin has become all the rage in Portsmouth, in Ohio’s Scioto County, where it’s taken not for the physical pain for which it’s normally prescribed but apparently to cure the pain of living. The Times piece tells the story of Nina Mannering: “In January 2010, Ms. Mannering was killed less than a mile from her parents’ house. A man broke into the house where she was staying with a 65-year-old veteran who had access to prescriptions and shot them both, looking for pills, the police said. She was 29. Her daughter, who was 8 at the time, watched.” The Times describes the Mannerings as occupying a deceptively “pretty hollow” where “11 houses on their country road were dealing the drug (including a woman in her 70s called Granny)....” Nina’s brother Chad eventually became an addict and the parents ultimately exhausted their savings “on legal fees and rehab programs.” The way Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise describes the story is very different from your ordinary shoot ‘em up, crack and cocaine tale. “Judy Mannering,” she writes, “discovered her daughter’s body at dusk, bathed in the light of a flickering, soundless television.” This telling of Nina Mannering’s demise reads less like a murder scene than like an account of someone who became overly sedated at a funeral.

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