Frankie, a motherless Puerto Rican who lives in a Bronx slum, finds it impossible to establish any rapport with his father, an alcoholic policeman. He becomes one of many teenage drug addicts in his neighborhood and eventually lands in jail, where he is forced to kick his habit "cold turkey." Upon release, he learns that one of his friends has been killed by a policeman's bullet, that two others are currently in prison, and that a fourth has died of heroin overdose. In addition, his girlfriend, Anita, has become a prostitute to pay for her drug habit. With this final blow, Frankie decides that his situation is hopeless and that he cannot and does not want to reform.