This story follows the lives of Harry, Marion, Tyrone, and Sara, who are all searching for the key to their dreams. In the process, they fall into devastating lives of addiction. Harry and Marion are in love and want to open their own business; their friend Tyrone wants to escape life in the ghetto. To achieve these dreams, they buy a large amount of heroin, planning to get rich by selling it. 
Sara, Harry’s lonely widowed mother, dreams of being on television. When a phone call from a casting company gets her hopes up, she spends the next few months on diet pills to lose weight. She becomes addicted and soon develops amphetamine psychosis. She eventually ends up in a mental institution, where she undergoes electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). 
Harry, Marion and Tyrone become addicted to their own product. Harry and Tyrone are arrested and convicted, sentenced to jail. Harry's arm has become infected from repeated injections, and has to be amputated. Left alone, Marion becomes a prostitute to support her addiction.

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