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East Liverpool police officer Fred Flati shows a photo on his phone, depicting a child in the backseat after an adult overdosed in the driver's seat, on Sept. 7, 2016. The image was later released by the City of East Liverpool Police Department and immediately went viral on Facebook.
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East Liverpool police officer Fred Flati shows a photo on his phone, depicting a child in the backseat after an adult overdosed in the driver's seat, on Sept. 7, 2016. The image was later released by the City of East Liverpool Police Department and immediately went viral on Facebook.Ben Lowy for TIME
East Liverpool police officer Fred Flati shows a photo on his phone, depicting a child in the backseat after an adult overdosed in the driver's seat, on Sept. 7, 2016. The image was later released by the City of East Liverpool Police Department and immediately went viral on Facebook.
Green Lane, a road commonly known in East Liverpool as the Ohio town's drug alley, on Oct. 8, 2016.
A patrolman searches for syringes and abandoned drug paraphernalia along the shore of the Ohio River in East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 8, 2016.
Officers arrest two men after an apparent an assault as neighbors watch in East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 8, 2016.
A man arrested under the influence of alcohol is shackled to a booking bench in the East Liverpool police Department in East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 8, 2016.
A sign hangs in the window of a small medical clinic in downtown East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 8, 2016. "No Narcotic medication and money is kept at this office," it reads. Stores and shops are frequently burglarized by addicts, according to police.
Police officers stop and search the occupants of a car in East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 7, 2016. They eventually released the men after the search.
A police officer holds up drug paraphernalia after searching through a teenager’s room in East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 8, 2016. The teen's mother called the police after her daughter vandalized her car and invited the officer into her home to search her daughter's room and take out whatever drugs he found. She said “Im tired of her using and I don’t know what to do about it. Just take it all.”
A suspect stopped by police smokes a cigarette, as his car is searched for drugs, in East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 8, 2016.
A young man, who police said was under the influence, is stopped in an alleyway by officers and searched in East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 7, 2016. When nothing was found, he was eventually released.
Patrolman John Headly searches through the car of a young man arrested for heroin possession in East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 7, 2016. A small child safety seat was strapped into the back seat with a syringe nearby.
A woman is stopped by police after she was observed making frequent trips in and out of a building known for drugs in downtown East Liverpool, Ohio, on Oct. 8, 2016.
An East Liverpool police officer shows an evidence bag filled with heroin on Oct. 7, 2016. "We can't even touch these things anymore," he said. "These drugs are cut with so much Fentanyl that one touch, one breathe, would kill most men."
An addict living on the streets complained about the lack of rehab centers in the town and little opportunity for East Liverpool youth on Oct. 7, 2016. "I don't even know my son anymore," she said. "He's an addict [too]."
An East Liverpool police officer stands near his vehicle during a possible drug stop on the highway on Oct. 8, 2016. Police said many drug users have a Driver’s ID from one state and plates from another since East Liverpool is right on the border between Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Drug offensives are much more severe in the latter, so many prefer to be caught and charged in Ohio.
East Liverpool police officer Fred Flati shows a photo on his phone, depicting a child in the backseat after an adult ov
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Ben Lowy for TIME
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The Small Town Police Force Behind the Viral Photo of an Overdose

Oct 19, 2016

East Liverpool, Ohio, was once considered the capital of the pottery world due to a thriving industry composed of more than 300 pottery companies. But like many small middle-America towns who were economically depleted due to manufacturers moving overseas, East Liverpool has become a shell of its former self. Its population now hovers around 11,000 and opportunities are scarce. The city has become "depressed," says photographer Ben Lowy. "All the shops have closed up, there's hardly any storefronts there. You don't see a lot of people on the streets at all and it seems like a town in decline."

These days, East Liverpool is known for its opioid epidemic with heroin and fentanyl high on demand. The town received national attention in September after its Police Department released a graphic photograph showing a four-year old boy in the backseat of a car while his grandmother, Rhonda Pasek, 50 and her boyfriend, James Acord, 47, were found unconscious from a heroin overdose.

The photograph, which went viral, is merely a small reminder of the opioid epidemic that is plaguing the state. A 2015 report from the Ohio Department of Health shows 3,050 died last year from accidental drug overdose, up from 2,531 in 2014. Overdoses from any kind of opioid contributed to 85% of drug overdoses in Ohio last year.

Lowy's images show that reality, faced each day by police officers and residents alike – and there's no end in sight. It is not uncommon for the police, as Lowy mentions, to "spend most of their time now looking for drugs."

And it's also not uncommon for East Liverpool officers to be called by their first names when on patrol as many of them grew up there. One of the officers Lowy spoke to said his interest in athletics led him to steer clear from the path of drugs compared to his peers who succumbed to it by choice. "Half the people who he was pulling over were people he went to high school with," Lowy says. "He put people that were his friends in prison."

Ben Lowy is a photographer based in New York City.

Paul Moakley, who edited this photo essay, is the Deputy Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @ paulmoakley.

Bianca Silva is a writer and contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter.

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