Addicts are people too.

No one believes that more than U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is determined to “literally put a face on addiction” as part of his effort to combat the country’s growing opioid epidemic.

It’s a simple concept, but one that’s difficult for many to understand. Medical science has conceded that addiction is an illness, not something that stems from a character flaw or lack of willpower.

To prove the point, Manchin, decided to read letters – from addicts and their loved ones – on the Senate floor. It’s a move that now has a national audience.

In the video above, Manchin reads a letter from Chelsea, who grew up in Madison and slowly decended into a life of drug use. When she finally wound up in the Southern Regional Jail, she promised God she would turn her life around if she got out. She did, an she did.

“I’m going to keep this in the news, and in the face of every American because we are losing too many lives, families and communities to this epidemic,” he said.

In addition to only submitting stories, people are now including photos and giving him permission to use their names.

That’s because they share his desire to really hit home about the state – and national – drug problem.

“They are coming from all over the country, but I take the West Virginia letters first. Basically this is all about putting a face on it,” he said.

Addiction doesn’t discriminate.

“Never assume that you know if someone might be an addict because of where they live or how much they make. If anything, these photos and stories show it could be a wife, mother, father, son or a cousin. Every family is potentially vulnerable,” he said.

“It’s not about poverty. It’s everywhere.”

Manchin kicked off this humanitarian effort earlier this year – when he read a letter from a woman in southern West Virginia who detailed how her childhood had been hurt by an addicted mother.

“The only thing worse than not having a mother at all is having a mother who chooses drugs over you,” that letter read.

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