This Town Is Known For Opioids: Can It Escape That Image?

Shoppers at a Christmas-themed store in Portsmouth, Ohio. “All reporters ever want to talk about is drugs,” said Sue Burke, a sixth-generation resident.Credit...Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — Jeremy Burnside has a dream that someday, someone will write a story about his town that has nothing to do with drugs.

Mr. Burnside, a personal-injury lawyer turned civic leader who works out of a converted church, lives in Portsmouth, an Ohio River town that has become something of a national symbol of the opioid crisis. The town fell early — and hard — into the addiction that later consumed the nation. Reporters from all over (including from this newspaper) came to write about it. There was even a book. The cover was Portsmouth’s town square.