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A Generation at Risk: Children at Center of America’s Opioid Crisis


Daniel A. Medina –

At 14, Tori Brinkman is a survivor.

Born premature, 15 weeks early and weighing just a pound and half, she spent the first three months of life in a neonatal intensive care unit. And her struggle had just begun.

Tori recalls being 8 when her mother asked her to carry out a drug deal. When she was 11, her uncle, whom she describes as a father figure, died of a heroin overdose.

Left to fend for herself, Tori says she did not even see a dentist or primary care physician — despite her fragile birth — until she was 10.

Her mother, a recovering heroin addict, has been clean now for three years, but Tori lives with her grandparents.

“I consider myself as a parent, and my mom the kid,” Tori, describing her early childhood, said in an interview in her grandparent’s home near Dayton. “She’d never take care of me, never feed me. I had to feed myself.”

As the United States grapples with an epidemic of historic proportions — one President Donald Trump has called a national crisis — it is children like Tori who often get lost or overlooked in the discussion. NBC News recently traveled to three states — Ohio, Massachusetts and Utah — to meet a few of these children, some born dependent on opioids and others, like Tori, who have suffered from the epidemic’s devastating toll.

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