By Clyde Habermas for The New York Times. United States military operations in Afghanistan, now in their 15th year, are routinely described as America’s longest war. For overseas combat, that is true. But nothing tops the domestic “war on drugs” that an American president declared more than four decades ago. The casualty rate has been exceedingly high.
Nearly 44,000 Americans a year — 120 a day — now die of drug overdoses. Neither traffic accidents nor gun violence, each claiming 30,000-plus lives a year, causes so much ruination. The annual drug toll is six times the total of American deaths in all wars since Vietnam.
There are obviously many historical aspects to this calamity: the crack cocaine epidemic that once laid siege to urban America, for example, or the spread of H.I.V. infection through shared needles. Retro Report, a series of video documentaries that examine major news stories of the past and their continued impact, trains its lens on a heroin scourge that menaced cities in the late 1960s and early ’70s. It was an era when some soldiers, too, came home from Vietnam with a heroin problem.