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Desperate for a place of refuge until he can get back on his feet again, heroin addict Zankie Albo wanders into Synanon House, a rehabilitation center run by former alcoholic Chuck Dederich. There he is placed in the care of Joaney, a nearly rehabilitated addict who reveals during a group therapy session that she is in danger of having her child taken away by her ex-husband. As Joaney watches over Zankie during the terrible initial stages of his withdrawal from narcotics, a strong attraction develops between them. Their relationship arouses the envy of one of the "graduate" residents, Ben, a parolee whom Zankie had known previously. Ben catches Joaney and Zankie in a midnight rendezvous at a beach house, and he reports them to the Synanon authorities. Zankie sees another resident, Pete, getting high on cough syrup and forces him to share it. Eventually Zankie leaves Synanon. Joaney follows, trailed by the anxious Ben. They are too late, however, for Zankie is already dead from an overdose of heroin. Joaney voluntarily returns to Synanon to continue her cure.