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Heroin(e): Tales From the Overdose Capital of America

I recently watched the Netflix documentary, Heroin(e). Based in the overdose capital of America, the program follows the professional lives of three incredible women – a fire chief, a judge, and a street missionary – in pursuit of saving lives in the midst of a national opioid epidemic.

Documenting Tragedy in the Mountain State

Heroin(e) reports Huntington, West Virginia is the overdose capital of America, with its death rate at 10 times the national average – suffering as many as 26 casualitites in a single day.

It’s a compelling a documentary and follows the life of Fire Chief, Jan Rader. She usually observes an average of five to seven overdose deaths a day. But why? Rader explains West Virginia is a blue collar state – with a reality that workers become injured, suffer with pain and then get hooked on opioids. When they’re unable to obtain painkillers, they turn to heroin or other potentially fatal drugs, such as fentanyl – which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

In 2015, the opioid crisis cost Cabel County – where Huntington is located – approximately $100 million dollars. The documentary goes on to reveal the total opioid cost on the U.S. is a staggering $78.5 billion per year.

Trying Different Tactics to Stem the Lethal Tide

The documentary shows how all three women have developed different strategies in an attempt to tackle this deadly issue. Here’s a look at their efforts:

  • The Fire ChiefRader personally delivers Naloxone – used to reverse the effects of an overdose – to fire departments. She also educates personnel on its’ administration in emergency situations. She states, “I don’t care if I have to save somebody fifty times…That’s fifty chances to get them into long-term recovery.”
  • The JudgePatricia Keller established an Adult Drug Court in Cabel County – a problem-solving treatment court. Its goal is to help participants overcome substance abuse issues which could’ve eventually led them to commit crimes. Her aim (through this program) is to help improve an individual’s quality of life and the lives of their families. As a consequence, the program talks of turning people (who might otherwise have become repeat offenders) into productive citizens – which, in turn, improves public safety. The program has become so successful the West Virginia Supreme Court rolled it out to other counties within the state.
  • The MissionaryThe third woman, Necia Freeman, helps provide food, shelter, and guidance for sex workers. The Netflix documentary follows her travels through the city, capturing her generosity and compassion towards these desperate women as she tries to guide them towards recovery.

Compassion is the Essential Ingredient

As well as providing insight into the very real problem America is facing with the opioid crisis, this documentary reveals the gripping results of a softer, compassionate, and more tolerant approach to treating individuals who suffer with chemical dependency.

Rather than locking them away or letting them die, these women show that, every single day, people become dependent on drugs and we need to treat them with kindness and love. In turn, the people suffering from a substance abuse issue are able to recognize they’re not worthless, they do deserve to live, and they have the right to get help.

Have you seen Heroin(e)? What did you think about this Netflix documentary and the stories it focused on? Share your opinions in the comments section below!

Additional Reading:   Here’s How Our Nation is Fighting the Opioid Crisis
Image Source: iStock

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