You’ll know Dani Ludwig when you see her.
Ludwig is the one in charge of the volunteers who have gone forth to snag all those used, hypodermic syringes at Whitemore Park, and other tucked-away places across Morgantown where a needle in a vein can vanquish the hurt – at least for a little while.
She’s the one who has been on that burger run in the middle of the night, so a person just out of the emergency room after an overdose can have some sustenance for a growling belly.
Through her peer recovery work at Milan Puskar Health Right and other venues, she’s the one who tells people not to give up on their recovery.
That, she knows, as she’s in recovery herself.
And Ludwig is the one, who, on Friday, told author Beth Macy that she never wants to be dopesick again.
“Dopesick.” That’s the term for the pain of withdrawal, voiced by users coming off heroin, OxyContin and other things that can (and will) kill them, should they fully submit to the rush of the song.
“I’d rather be in labor than dopesick,” Ludwig said.
Macy is the former Roanoke, Va., newspaper reporter who wrote “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company That Addicted America.”
The 2018 book has since morphed into “Dopesick,” an acclaimed series on Hulu starring Michael Keaton and Rosario Dawson.
Its author is also a writer and executive producer on the series parlayed by her book.
Friday was the day the author and reformed user appeared on an online panel hosted by the Community Education Group, founded 28 years ago in Washington, D.C., by activist A. Toni Young.
The group’s original mission was to address AIDS and H.I.V. concerns among women. Sad circumstances in American life made Young’s group do some morphing of its own.
Young relocated to Hardy County, W. Va., in recent years, where she’s watched the shadow of addiction creep across the ancient Appalachian mountains.
Macy, who still lives in Roanoke, was watching too.
That’s why she wrote her book. From 2006 through 2014, more than 1 billion pain pills – OxyContin, mainly, manufactured by Purdue Pharma – made their way to the Mountain State.
According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2,000 West Virginians died from overdoses related to the above, in a one-year stretch from April 2020 to April 2021.
It was easy to get hooked, Macy said. Both on the drug, and the drug deal.
That Medicaid card in your wallet or purse bought you a prescription for $2, tops. You could take half, then duck into that one behind the convenience store to sell the rest – for thousands of dollars.
Legal actions have since been leveled against the drug maker, but, like the aftermath of a tornado in a trailer park, the human wreckage that remains still sad.
That’s why Young was moved by Macy’s book, she said.
In turn, Macy wants addiction – where the brain’s neuropathways are reconfigured and people use not to get high, but to get normal – classified as a medical condition, not some lifestyle quirk or lack of gumption or maturity.
She never wants to forget the drug makers and the physicians who knowingly prescribed what they did.
“This was done to us, as a nation,” Macy said. “We’ve got to put humanity back into our institutions.”
Now, she wants people hooked on empathy. She’s still doing plenty of reporting on the issue.
“I’ve got a hell of a story, if you ever want to talk,” Ludwig said.