She was devastated by drugs, a young woman grew old too soon. Her face was swollen and encrusted, her arms were scarred with traces of needle, and an abscess the size of a kitchen sponge swam under thick skin near her elbow. On Thursday morning in downtown Los Angeles, the 26-year-old brunette swam in a needles exchange program and asked for help. She said she spent most of the past weeks in a car.
"I came here because I want to get clean," said the woman who told me that she was using heroin and methamphetamine and nearly died from a fentanyl overdose a few days earlier. "It's exhausting trying to make money, taking drugs, then doing it again and getting sick."
Take your story and multiply it by thousands. Addiction and all its consequences can be seen in Los Angeles County, where the recent spread is measured in tents rather than homes. Drugs are a booming underground economy with visibility in the open air, and nearly a third of the homeless claim to be suffering from a serious mental illness, a substance abuse problem or both.
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