Huntington, West Virginia, is home to around 50,000 people and has an overdose rate ten times the national average. You may be familiar with the town for personal reasons, or perhaps you’ve seen the documentary “Heroin(e)” on Netflix. With the 90th Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, maybe you’ll have some time to give the documentary a watch beforehand. “Heroin(e)” is nominated for the best documentary (short subject) Oscar.
Some might call Huntington the epicenter of the American opioid addiction epidemic; maybe the statement is true, what is sure, that the situation in the former industrial town is reflective of much of rural America. The Appalachian region is losing mothers and fathers and sons and daughters at unbelievable scale; it is a reality that “Heroin(e)” director, Elaine McMillion Sheldon (“Hollow,” 2013), would much like to drive home.
The scope and scale of the epidemic have no parallel; solutions hardly seem in sight at this juncture. One of the biggest deterrents to tackling the epidemic is the way most Americans continue to view addiction. The stigma of mental illness is alive and well, it’s a fact that Sheldon understands.
Opioid Epidemic Heroin(es)
The short documentary released last September follows the lives of three women in Huntington; including a fire chief, a drug-court judge, and a street missionary. Sheldon chose the three human subjects for the doc, she tells Business Insider, because the three women treat people battling addiction as “human beings and not as junkies.”
Sheldon, a native West Virginia, wanted to tell a different kind of story about the epidemic—one that places a greater focus on the people trying to help. Plenty of documentaries center on the use and abuse side of the epidemic, “Heroin(e)” shows how selfless individuals are affecting change in their community. Compassion is a powerful tool; it can help alter the course of peoples’ lives for the better. The Peabody Award-winning director said:
“We wanted to try and find a story that was around solutions and the inner-resilience that people have to overcome this problem.”
Sheldon is hopeful that politicians will watch her film and see what real people are going through and shape policy decisions off of reality. Her lengthy interview with Business Insider is worth a full read if you have the time, especially her thoughts about misconceptions surrounding addiction. She concedes that a byproduct of the opioid epidemic is that nobody can see that it is “those people” doing the drugs and ruining their lives; rich and poor, young and old, black or white, rural or metropolitan—all are eligible for addiction and premature death if they don’t get help. Please take a moment to watch the trailer below:
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Netflix has made “Heroin(e)” available for educational streaming unlimited. Movie theaters can screen the film as many times as they like as long as they don’t charge admission.
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
If you are one of the millions of Americans grappling with opioid use disorder, please contact Synergy Group Services. We can help you overcome the cycle of addiction and give you the tools for living a life of lasting addiction recovery.
The use and abuse of opioids in the United States is a public health crisis, most Americans are aware of the severe death toll from the use of this class of drugs. So, it’s probably not a surprise the White House renewed a previous order declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency, before it ran out toward the end of last month. Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, writes:
As a result of the continued consequences of the opioid crisis affecting our nation, on this date and after consultation with public health officials as necessary, I, Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pursuant to the authority vested in me under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, do hereby renew, effective January 24, 2018, my October 26, 2017, determination that a public health emergency exists nationwide as a result of the consequences of the opioid crisis.
The use of any type of opioid can lead to addiction, or worse, overdose. Around a hundred Americans perish each day from drugs like OxyContin, fentanyl, and heroin; naloxone can reverse an overdose, but that’s not always the case—especially when fentanyl is involved. In a short time, synthetic opioids became one of the greatest threats to the drug using public. Fentanyl is regularly added to heroin to boost potency, but it’s done without the user’s knowledge; it’s an ignorance that often results in fatal overdose.
Fentanyl On The Mind
Synthetic opioids are great at killing pain in medically supervised environments. However, the influx of the drug into the U.S. from Chinese laboratories is a major concern. A report from the Senate shows that manufacturers of the drug in China market it online and use the USPS to get it to civilians in the U.S. Once here, fentanyl is stamped into pills resembling OxyContin or simply mixed into batches of heroin—a drug that requires no assistance in being deadly.
Even when fentanyl use doesn’t result in an overdose death, it can wreak havoc on people’s health. Researchers from West Virginia University warn that there is an association between fentanyl and severe memory loss, according to Health Day. More than a dozen patients exhibited signs of short-term memory loss after using fentanyl alone or with stimulants. Their brain scans showed lesions on the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memory.
“They all have difficulty learning new information, and it’s pretty dense,” said Marc Haut, chair of West Virginia University’s department of behavioral medicine and psychiatry. Every day is pretty much a new day for them, and sometimes within a day they can’t maintain information they’ve learned.”
Haut says it’s possible the patients experienced overdose prior to the symptoms of amnesia arising, the article reports. He points out that such individuals do not recover quickly and may not fully regain their short-term memory.
“We talk a lot about people who don’t survive overdoses, but we aren’t talking about people who survive repeated overdoses and the impact that might have on them and their functioning,” Haut said. “If their memory is really compromised, it’s going to be hard for them to learn a new life that doesn’t involve drugs.”
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
Painkillers, synthetic opioids, and heroin carry severe risks; if you are addicted to opioids of any kind, please contact Synergy Group Services. We can help you overcome the cycle of addiction and give you the tools for living a life of lasting addiction recovery.
The opioid addiction epidemic has left no corner of America untouched. Arguably, the eastern seaboard has been affected most by opioid use disorder, from Florida to Maine and practically every state in between. Prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opiates continue to steal lives on daily basis. Experts predict that more overdose deaths will occur this year than last. With each year that passes, overdose death records get broken.
The New Hampshire Film Festival held last weekend used the opportunity to open discourse about opioid addiction. In a state that has seen devastating overdose death rates, focusing on opioid use disorder makes sense. To give you an idea of how severe the problem is in NH, the state’s chief medical examiner threw in the towel (so to speak), The New York Times reports. In the wake of almost 500 overdose deaths across the state last year, Dr. Thomas A. Andrew announced his resignation. He will enroll in seminary school and plans to minister to young people about addiction.
“After seeing thousands of sudden, unexpected or violent deaths,” Dr. Andrew said, “I have found it impossible not to ponder the spiritual dimension of these events for both the deceased and especially those left behind.”
Films About Addiction and Recovery
Taking advantage of the public attention to film during festival season is vital to this most important cause. At the NH Film Festival, two films were shown in a double feature this year, focused on the opioid addiction epidemic. “The Heroin Effect,” a documentary following the lives of over a dozen recovering addicts in New Hampshire.
“The Heroin Effect follows the stories of those affected by opiate addiction, shows what successful recovery can look like and highlights advocates for a health system that does not discriminate against this treatable disease. The film shows the impact of individual connections with our neighbors who are fighting addiction, and by presenting various informed perspectives, including intimate video journal footage of one man’s thoughts on his own drug use, helps us better understand their humanity.”
“Andy Wooff’s Birthday,” a short documentary about an addict on his birthday. Filmmaker William Bentley’ short film shadows a British heroin user’s attempt to score the drug on his 51st birthday.
“This is an area where it means most because the epidemic is here,” Bentley told WMUR. “The tri-state area, the New England area are really suffering from it, and it means a lot to have people come up to you and talk to you about the film afterwards.”
Opioid Addiction Treatment
There are many ways to address this insidious epidemic; cinema is essential because it gets people talking. Discussing the nature of addiction, treatment, and recovery is vital in encouraging people to seek help.
If you are struggling with opioid addiction, treatment is your best hope for achieving the goal of recovery. Please contact Synergy Group Services today. Whether you live in New Hampshire, Florida, or anywhere else—recovery is your only hope.
Convincing people that they could be helped by addiction treatment is no easy task. Even when it is obvious to the individual that treatment is required. We have written several times about how deadly untreated mental health disorders can be. As well as the fact that most people in need of treatment never get it. But, without treatment the likelihood of premature death is extremely high.
With some use disorders, the road to premature death is often long and painful. Typically, it is the exact opposite with opioids narcotics. Whether it be prescription opioids or heroin, the risk of fatal overdose is staggering. Even when an overdose is not fatal, the risk of another overdose in the near future is high. It is not uncommon for overdose victims to have many, before finally not coming back.
Whether you are in recovery, or not, it is possible that you wonder why an overdose victim doesn’t seek help? After all, it is easy to think that an overdose would be enough to urge someone into treatment. While it is common for overdose to precipitate treatment, it is also quite common for victims to head back to drugs.
Encouraging Overdose Victims Into Treatment
Many addiction experts agree that the time right after an overdose is best for talking to individuals about recovery. Experiencing an overdose is terrifying and not without pain. The opioid overdose antidote naloxone causes the body to undergo rapid withdrawal, it is no walk in the park. Sitting in a hospital bed after nearly dying (one would think), should be a wakeup call. Anyone who has come back from an overdose will tell you how broken they felt. The experience puts things into perspective.
However, those very same people might also share how they went back out and used again. That there were no resources available to help them seek recovery support when they came to. Being discharged and sent on their miserable way towards inevitably the next overdose. With each fatal overdose in the U.S. every day, there are roughly 30 nonfatal overdoses, NPR reports. Sadly, interventions after overdose don’t happen enough, according to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The paper showed that among people who had overdosed on heroin, the filling of opioid prescriptions fell by 3.5 percent, the article reports. But, medication-assisted treatment increased by only 3.6 percent. Just 33 percent of heroin and 15 percent of prescription opioid overdose survivors were prescribed:
“This is a time when people are vulnerable, potentially frightened by this event that’s just occurred and amenable to advice, referral and treatment recommendations,” said senior author, Julie Donohue, associate professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s safe to characterize it as a missed opportunity for the health system to respond.”
Addiction Treatment After Overdose
If you have experienced an overdose recently and are still using, please contact Synergy Group Services. The longer treatment is put off, the greater the chance you will experience another overdose. And the next one may not end with a reversal. It is possible to recover from an opioid use disorder, let us help.
It would be nice if everyone abusing opioid narcotics of any kind could be convinced that the best thing they could do today is seek help for their addiction. For unlike other substances that one could be addicted to, the likelihood of an overdose and potential death is so great with prescription opioids and heroin that it is simply not worth continuing.
Naturally, such a scenario could only exist if addiction were not what it is: A serious mental health disorder that fights to protect itself like a wolf backed into a corner. Addicts know that at any moment the drugs they are about to put in their body could be their last, yet they do it anyway because the thought of withdrawal sickness is so terrifying it is as if they have no other option.
There is not a formula to explain when an individual has had enough and will seek help. Even those who have survived an overdose will continue using despite the inherent risks. Which is why it is so vital that states and cities do their part to provide addicts with naloxone, clean syringes and a way to determine if the drugs they are about to do contain the deadly ingredient known as fentanyl.
Testing for Fentanyl
People can die from an overdose on morphine, they can die from an overdose on heroin. But if fentanyl is added to the equation the chances of an overdose death are exponentially greater.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) points out that fentanyl is anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Used in even small amounts it causes severe respiratory depression that can be deadly.
The drug is commonly mixed into bags of heroin to increase potency, without users having any knowledge of its presence. However, there is a way that addicts could determine if their bag contains fentanyl. In New York City, a program in the Bronx has begun equipping heroin addicts with easy to use fentanyl test strips, NPR reports. At St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, a needle exchange program in the Bronx, ordered test strips from Canada and are handing them out at the exchange.
“If you’re doing dope,” staffer Van Asher says to one client, “we’ll give you a test strip so you can test and see if there’s fentanyl.”
The Road to Recovery
There are some who might argue that giving out test strips and clean syringes encourages continued use. But, in reality, such practices prevent the spread of deadly diseases and can help prevent a fatal overdose. Needle exchange personnel typically talk with addicts coming in off the streets about the value of seeking recovery. Letting them know that it is possible. A significant number of people have gone to treatment based on recommendations from such clinics.
If you are actively abusing opioids of any kind, please contact Synergy Group Services to begin the journey of recovery.