When the Tenderloin's Addiction Crisis Goes Viral

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Tracey Helton Mitchell holds a photo of her ex-boyfriend, who passed away from a heroin overdose, at her home in Daly City on April 5, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood has a reputation for drug addiction, poverty, and homelessness — all big problems that have not been solved by city and state leaders. But the neighborhood’s image is also shaped by disturbing pictures and videos of people taking drugs outside that go viral on social media.

These images, which circulate around the world, can evoke anger, fear, and frustration. They also shape opinion about what should be done and galvanize support for harsher, tougher crackdowns on drug dealing and drug use.

Some believe that sharing these photos on social media is necessary to document this ongoing problem. Others say they only show one side of drug addiction, and leave those photographed without agency in how their stories are used.

GuestHolly J. McDede, KQED reporter/producer