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:
If you are having trouble watching, please click here.
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.
At this point, now in the seventeenth year of the most insidious drug epidemic the world has ever seen, many Americans are starting to think that the crisis may never be curtailed. It is a shared feeling, despite the fact that we know what is needed, greater access to addiction treatment. To be sure, there are thousands of addiction treatment facilities throughout the country, centers helping people break the cycle of addiction 365 days a year. Yet there are many Americans who need treatment the most, that are unable to access such programs. Those who do have a shot at getting a bed often have to wait well over a month for it, and in a number of cases that is dangerously long given the deadly nature of opioids.
Realizing that Americans are being forced to wait needlessly for treatment, there has been a huge push within the Federal government to increase funding for addiction treatment services throughout the country. It was a push that resulted in the passing of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA), a bill specifically designed to combat the American opioid epidemic, including provisions for:
- Expanding Access to Treatment
- Increasing Access to Naloxone
- Distributing Clean Needles
- Education and Prevention Efforts
Unfortunately, there may not be enough funding to ensure that all the aforementioned initiatives are achieved. CARA was widely hailed as a perfect example of bipartisan governing, yet if it fails to accomplish what it was designed for then it is irrelevant. However, there may be hope yet for millions of Americans who are in need of treatment.
Congress approved the 21st Century Cures Act, new legislation that could channel $1 billion in new funding over the next two years for opioid addiction prevention and treatment programs, USA Today reports. On top of that, the Cures Act could fortify existing mental health parity laws, forcing insurers to cover mental illness the same way they would any other health condition.
“For far too long Americans suffering with mental illness have been stigmatized and left in the shadows,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. “This bill helps stop Americans from falling through the cracks.”
Click here to watch a short video on the subject.
In the United States, we are responsible for using the world’s market share of prescription opioid. It would be one thing if our country had a population that compared to China or India, but the 2016 estimated population of the United States is 322,762,018 (roughly 5 percent of the world population) according to an end-of-year estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau. While efforts continue to limit the number of prescriptions written for painkillers, as well as the size and number of refills, the U.S. is just as dependent as ever upon opioids.
It is a double edged sword that has resulted in the worst drug epidemic in history. On the one hand, people need adequate pain management, and the other hand pain medications are both addictive and deadly. Yet, seemingly with caution to the wind prescription opioids continue to be both manufactured and prescribed in excess in the United States. The most common prescription opioids used and abused include:
- Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
- Oxycontin (oxycodone)
- Vicodin (hydrocodone)
Curbing Painkiller Production
Over the last several years, there have been calls to curtail the amount of prescription painkillers produced every year. And, as you might have imagined, pharmaceutical companies have done their best to prevent production restrictions. However, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has placed new mandates on the amount of prescription opioids that can be produced, HealthDay reports. The DEA says that we should see a 25 percent decrease at least in 2017. Through production limitations, hopefully it will result in fewer of such drugs ending up in the wrong hands.
Just to give you an idea of how often prescription opioids are diverted to people without prescriptions, data from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 6.5 million Americans older than 12 had used an opioid without a prescription in the last month, according to the article. Such high pill diversion rates are likely the result of doctors writing prescriptions for more of a drug than a patient requires.. Several government agencies, including the DEA, have called upon doctors to change their prescribing practices.
“For years, DEA and others have been educating practitioners, pharmacists, manufacturers, and the public about the potential dangers of the misuse of opioid medications,” the DEA said.
Opioid Addiction Recovery
It is widely agreed upon that the best weapon for fighting the opioid epidemic is addiction treatment services. They could outlaw prescription opioids tomorrow, and opioid addicts would still find a way to maintain their habit—by way of heroin. Treatment can break the cycle of addiction and give millions of Americans a fighting chance at recovery. Please contact Synergy Group Services today, to begin the journey of recovery.
If you were watching programs on HBO between 2002 and 2008, you may have come across a show called “The Wire.” It is often considered to be one of the greatest television dramas of all time. If you have never seen it, you may be wondering what the show has to do with addiction recovery. The show centers around the City of Baltimore’s fight against the heroin trade, covering the many facets of inner-city drug problems. The highly acclaimed show won several awards season after season.
One the main characters of the show is Reginald Cousins (played by actor Andre Royo), affectionately called “Bubbles” by those who knew him. Bubbles was heroin addict, who like most addicts, would do whatever it took to support his addiction. Throughout the course of the show you are given a firsthand look at the life of an addict, the daily struggle that countless people deal with every day of the year. What’s more, you can watch Bubble’s transformation, as he begins the road to recovery. With the help of his Narcotics Anonymous sponsor named Waylon (played by musician Steve Earle), Bubbles manages to acquire over a year of clean time before the series ends.
“The Wire,” and many of the shows characters was inspired by a real drug kingpin named Nathan Barksdale, who went by the nickname “Bodie.” Barksdale passed away this week at the age of 54 while serving a four-year sentence in federal prison, The Baltimore Sun reports. In the 1980’s, Barksdale ran a notorious heroin dealing operation in the Murphy Homes public housing complex.
“In real life he was one of the most notorious and resilient gangster drug kingpins Baltimore has ever seen,” says Wood Harris, who played the character Avon Barksdale in “The Wire”. “He was a magnet for violence.”
While there isn’t any debate about the harm Barksdale caused, his life opened up the conversation about heroin addiction before the nation was even aware that we were at the beginning of an opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives. Every day, 44 people lose their life because of an opioid overdose.
The journey of recovery can begin in many ways. Recovery can start with a simple conversation with a stranger, happening upon a book about someone’s story of recovery, taking a seat in a movie theater, viewing a classic movie on television or even becoming engaged with an ongoing television series. The magic can be ignited with the smallest spark. If you have questions about addiction and recovery, feel free to contact Synergy Group Services. “We’ve been there as a family, now let us help yours.”