On the front lines of the opioid crisis across the US: Part 1

How the deadliest drug crisis in our country's history is affecting thousands of Americans, from overdose victims, to their families to DEA agents to first responders.
10:40 | 08/24/17

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for On the front lines of the opioid crisis across the US: Part 1
The word epidemic gets used a lot these days but it may be the case that word is not strong enough to discuss this country's recent surge in opioid addiction. Tonight we team up to show just one week in the life of America's worst drug crisis ever. Here's ABC's senior justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas. Reporter: There's a true epidemic sweeping America. Striking without warning. On a public bus outside Philadelphia on, a street in Detroit. Opioids bringing thousands of Americans to the brink of death. Playing out on social media. People having to be revived. Even by their own children. Dad! And the heart breaking results, an innocent little boy dead. A 10-year-old boy is being called the youngest victim. And little girls like Lilliana in New Hampshire. He was on the bus and he got unconscious. How come? What did he do? He was smoking heroin. Now without a father. At least 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Drug overdoses now kill more people than guns or car accidents. The opioid crisis is an emergency. It is receiving epidemic levels. For one week, knight Lionel partnered with our affiliates across the country. It is an evil beast let out in the country. The D.E.A. Victims have their parents -- She was gone. As they struggle to get a handle on the deadliest drug crisis in American history. We begin in Phoenix where we're without the D.E.A. And the Tempe police. Trying to take down an underground network of drug dealers with ties to the sinaloa cartel. How would you describe what they have operating? We're the transportation. The money coming back. We've got thousands of affiliates. And according to the D.E.A., the cartels now sell their product in almost every state. Authorities stay crisis is worsening because Americans continue to overuse painkillers with illicit supplies in Mexico and China have boosted their supply of fentanyl, a powerful opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin. Just a small amount can kill you. He's supposed to be making a delivery. We've been following him most of the afternoon. Waiting for the right time to strike. Agents quickly am rebehind one of the suspects. We already found a large supply of money. We'll tear down vehicle down. You'll watch the rest of the D.E.A. Investigation unfold later. But 1,500 miles away in Kentucky it is too late for one family. 22-year-old Jennifer was yog and full of life. But like so many young people in America, at some point Veronica experimented with pills. Unbeknownst to her parents, eventually turned to heroin. She was so good at hiding. This is the first time we've heard heroin and Veronica's name mentioned. We knew it was pills. In the last year of her life, she kind of pulled away. Like couless others, Veronica was in and out of rehab. We thought this was the start of our getting better. Her recovery. But she checks herself out of rehab for a weekend to see a friend. What's your emergency? I don't know. I just woke up. I got a call around 7:00, 7:15, and all they would tell me was we need to you come to the hospital. I said is she alive? Is she okay? Is she breathing? Ma'am, I'll sorry, we just need you to come here. By 2:30 pom day one of our week,h Veronica is pronounced agreed a heroin overdose. She was gone. Our daughter, she was gone. Veronica leaves behind her own 4-year-old daughter raylynn. Today it was Veronica. Her parents warn tomorrow it could be your kid. I want to tell her story. If I can save one mother from having to go through this pain of burying your child, I'll do it. .With an expert who said, it's the closest thing he's seen to the loss of free will. Because of the chemistry change in the brain. Is that true? Yeah. It's a physical addiction, a psychological addiction. Which means people are spending their time constantly thinking about getting the drug. And their body is addicted. If they stop using the drug, they withdraw and feel miserable. Ohio date two. Police officer Chris green is trying to prevent that kind of tragedy from happening on his streets. We've got a warrant. Don't run from me. We'll go an entire shift. All we're doing is overdoses. It's devastating on the community. It crystallize in the these photos. Taken in officer green's town last year. The driver and passenger overdosed while the passenger's 4-year-old grandson watches from the back seat. Ohio has been one of the hardest hit states in this epidemic. In east Liverpool, a nefls where three he states meet has become a hub where drugs flow in and out freely. During seven days of our investigation, at least 605 people in Ohio ended up in the E.R. As a result of suspected overdose opioids. I used to live here. Now houses are boarded up. There's no kids. Growing up here and seeing what it used to be like, man, it breaks your heart. For officer green -- every drug bust is a step in the right direction. Today special response team is executing a search warrant on a house suspected of containing drugs. What's most disheartening is a small juvenile. He's been exposed to things to kid should. You look just like your daddy. So children's services will be notified. Suspected about 20 grams here. Street value about $200 a gram. Officers need to take extra precautions because of the drug's toxicity. For now, police cannot bring charges unless the lab results confirm the make-up of the powder. Nine times out of ten, individuals will continue to sell even after this drug bust. That whole system takes forever. Because of the lag, he says nearly every day he has to let people back on the streets who he believes will deal again. In the meantime, they'll continue to wreak havoc on these neighborhoods. It's a shame. Some of the blame lies with doctors. During week we extraed, three doctors stood accused of illegally prescribing medications to their patients. I'll tranlds in physical medicine and rehabilitation. According to the indictment, his actions resulted in the overdose deaths of seven of his patients. He's pled not guilty to all charges. His lawyers said in part, you can't blame the doctor if people are misusing their prescriptions. The allegations of the seven people died happened over the last five years. He's had hundreds if not thousands of patients over that time. With diamond no longer practicing -- Painful. Mike is concerned. He's been coming to Dr. Diamond for prescription painkillers for injuries he said he sustained on the job a decade ago. I've been rationing my medicine. Now he worries where his next refill will come from. I have five pain pills left. What happens after that? I don't know. I'll have to go to the street to get them. We've been talking about this for a number of years that you it is getting worse. A lot of people who prescribed opioids for surgeries, kidneys, broken bones. Now you have all these people he addicted to prescription opioids so there's a culture change toward making sure that we're not prescribing too many opioids. We're back in Phoenix with the D.E.A., in this neighborhood about to take down the next leg in a suspected multimillion-dollar ring. Police draw their weapons. With the S.W.A.T. Team in the way. Finding exactly what they're looking for. The product, most of which will be inside here, this is going to be heroin. It's not sophisticated but extremely successful. Meanwhile agents across town are in a position to hit the headquarters with this alleged drug trafficking ring. They're getting ready to go in. The alleged ring operating out of this typical American home in a working class neighborhood, suspected of pushing out 15 pounds of heroin. It is a high risk operation. You never know what's behind the door. Go around the back. When we come back, a manhunt. This would be worth over $1 million. In Florida, the ems rushing to save the life of this young woman. Is she breathing normally? I'll giving her cpr. Will they be able to save her?

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"10:40","description":"How the deadliest drug crisis in our country's history is affecting thousands of Americans, from overdose victims, to their families to DEA agents to first responders. ","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/Nightline","id":"49392208","title":"On the front lines of the opioid crisis across the US: Part 1","url":"/Nightline/video/front-lines-opioid-crisis-us-part-49392208"}