One year ago, Indiana resident Erika Hurt was fighting a losing battle against heroin addiction. And while a viral photo of someone slumped back in their car after a drug overdose could be a source of great embarrassment and scandal, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it reportedly convinced the 26-year-old mother to turn her life around and get clean.
According to a report from the New York Post, the incident happened on October 22, 2016, when Hurt was found in the parking lot of a Dollar General, passed out in her car with a needle in her hand. As his mother apparently suffered from a heroin overdose, Hurt’s infant son Parker was shown in the picture as well, crying in the back seat.
After Erika Hurt was found by police and revived with opioid antidote naloxone and taken to a hospital for treatment, the Indiana woman was arrested for child neglect and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police officials from her hometown of Hope, Indiana then released her photo in an effort to educate people about the heroin crisis plaguing her state and other parts of the Midwest. As a result, Hurt’s photo went viral, with the young mother’s image symbolizing the opioid epidemic.
“I was sitting in jail viewing the picture on all the news stations on TV and was just shocked, humiliated. I had no words,” Hurt told NBC affiliate WTHR in an interview earlier this week.
Newsweek also quoted a Facebook post from Erika Hurt, where she reposted last year’s viral photo alongside newer photos of herself and her son, looking much healthier one year after her overdose.
“I’ve decided to repost the picture simply because it displays exactly what heroin addiction is. Also because I do not want to ever forget where the road of addiction has taken me. Little did I know that day, my life was about to change, drastically. Today, I am able to focus on the good that came from that picture.”
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) October 28, 2017
Hurt added that she is now a better mother to her son Parker, who was just 10-months-old at the time of last year’s incident, stressing that she is now one year sober and thankful to the “very large group” of supporters who have helped her stay on the straight and narrow.
Although the case of Erika Hurt suggests that sharing photos of people overdosing on opioids could help curb the crisis and change people’s lives, Newsweek noted that there are many public health specialists who believe that posting such images is an ineffective and insensitive strategy that won’t work in most cases.
One of these experts is Adam Brooks of Philadelphia’s Treatment Research Institute, who spoke to the Washington Post last year shortly after another image of two overdose victims went viral. The incident in question showed a man and a woman having nodded out in their car in East Liverpool, Ohio, with a 4-year-old boy sitting in the back wide awake.
“Publishing photos of unconscious individuals regardless of the circumstance is an insensitive and demoralizing approach to teach anyone a ‘lesson,'” Brooks posited.
“People struggling with addiction are dealing with a serious, chronic health condition that can’t be curbed through shaming. Would we post a photo of someone suffering a diabetic coma because they didn’t take their medication? Absolutely not.”
Meanwhile, Erika Hurt is still attending court-mandated rehab, as Parker, who turns 2-years-old in December, is still under the temporary custody of Hurt’s mother. According to the New York Post, Hope Town Marshal Matt Tallent has no regrets about posting Hurt’s overdose photo, stressing that he did not intend to shame her, and acknowledging that young people “make mistakes” and are allowed to do so, provided they learn from them and become stronger people in the end.
[Featured Image by C_KAWI/Shutterstock]