With Pictures of Overdose Victims, Where Some See Awareness, Others Warn Against Public Shaming


Forty-three-year-old construction worker Eric Asher was driving through a parking lot in Canton last Friday when he noticed a man and a woman passed out on the ground outside of their vehicle.

As he approached the scene, he noticed a baby sweating in the back carseat as outside temperatures reached a sweltering 88 degrees. Luckily, the car was unlocked and Asher and his fiancée were able to easily rescue the child. Another bystander called 911 regarding the overdosed couple. Asher documented the incident and shared photos on social media of the overheated baby and the overdosed parents laying on the pavement.

Asher has told multiple outlets that the baby's mother later called him to thank him for saving the life of her child. She also confided in Asher that she and the man with her were recovering addicts that had relapsed after being clean for two years.

The baby is being looked after by a relative and court records show the parents have been charged with child endangerment and were released on $1,000 bonds.

News of this hot-car rescue with direct ties to the opioid crisis have understandably made this a hot story for local and national news outlets.

During an interview with Inside Edition, Asher said, “The only reason we posted that picture was to bring awareness. I have family and friends dying like everybody does daily over this epidemic. We just wanted people to be aware of what was going on in our community. We did not expect it to go viral.”

Asher's a Good Samaritan who helped save three lives and wanted to raise awareness of the real life results of the opioid epidemic impacting our communities every day, as well as the dangers of leaving babies in hot cars.

But the identities of the two adults were not concealed, and many experts say a viral picture, such as the one that's been widely shared, attaches a permanent stigma that will follow them for the rest of their lives. There might be less of a chance for recovery and redemption for these two people, because they'll forever be known as "those parents that almost cooked their kid in a car after they overdosed."

Publicly shaming addicts does not help them get better.

A similar incident occurred in 2016 when officials in East Liverpool, Ohio, shared photos of a man and woman slumped over in a car, suffering from an apparent overdose. The photos sparked a massive debate about public shaming.

"A single picture does not tell the whole story of a person's road to addiction," John Fitzgerald, clinical director of CODA, Oregon's oldest opioid addiction treatment program, said to CNN. "When we glance over images in a news feed and pass judgment without considering the context, we run the risk of becoming numb to the reality that addiction is a disease, not a choice."

Addiction experts claim these images perpetuate myths about addiction and further drive a wedge between people who understand addiction is a disease and people who believe this is an issue of morality or weakness of character.

According to child psychologist Scott Krakower, "Especially in the early stages of addiction, when the chances of turnaround are greater, it is important to engage the individual in a positive manner, so they can feel comfortable seeking help."

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