Chasing Heroin is two hour
documentary that covers drugs addicts that are struggling or recovering in
society. The consequences of drug abusers affects family members, prescribers,
and government administrators. This is a time period where heroin and opioid
addiction is making an impact on millions of people. Although, I have heard of
drug abuse through word of mouth, social media, and new outlets it was still
shocking to watch this documentary. I humbly felt sad for the abusers presented
before me. The epidemic is filled with shame that families keep as a dirty
little secret. People end up dying alone because of the stigma.

The documentary offered me a lot of
information and firsthand view of the lives of three different individuals. I
believe the goal of this video is to increase awareness of opioid abuse,
address who it affects, explain past solutions, and develop new policies to end
the epidemic.

Opioids and heroin alone
contributed to over 30,000 deaths (Gaviria, 2016). There has been a steady rise
in the use of drugs, and this trend shouldn’t be the norm with so many policies
being place to confront these issues. I believe that once this issue touched
the lives of those in power or who have a public platform, it suddenly became a
national issue to bring public attention and investment. It is interesting
because those who were using, selling, or making these drugs were being
incarcerated but now it is seemed as a mental health issue. The current level
of empathy was not present in prior years when the face of addiction was of other

In the beginning of the
documentary, it explains the history of how the epidemic began almost 30 years
ago. At first, pain killers were prescribed to treat chronically ill patients
and unfortunately became a common routine of treatment as a line of first
defense (Gaviria, 2016). It didn’t matter what a patient complained about, a
clinician gave prescriptions for opioids freely. Addiction to these pain
killers becomes very pricey and challenging to get a hold of. These issues
often led users to transition to heroin, which is cheaper street drug that is
not safe nor regulated.

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The Purdue Pharmaceutical Company manmade
a drug named ‘OxyContin’ which was considered to be “wonder drug” because it
had a time release that could delay any addiction to the opioid (Gaviria, 2016).
In other words, an individual would not receive an instant high from the pain
medication. By 2001, Purdue was selling over 1 Billion OxyContin per year. At
this point, Americans began to see an increase in addiction despite the initial
reports made by Purdue Pharmaceuticals. They marketed their drug as a
non-addictive pill that would change the face of pain management (Gaviria, 2016).
Local governments and National Federal agencies began to game plan and target
addiction; this is when America saw a rise in Methadone clinics. Methadone is a
synthetic analgesic drug that is similar to morphine in its effects but longer
acting, used as a substitute drug in the treatment of morphine and heroin
addiction (Gaviria, 2016).

The documentary did a great job at
identifying the issues and discussing the efforts implemented to resolve the
issue. It went into detail about drug courts, treatments, and harm-reduction
models. Drug Courts are located throughout America in small towns and cities.
Drug courts are a special court given responsibility to handle cases involving
substance-abusing offenders through comprehensive supervision, drug testing,
treatment services and immediate sanctions and incentives (Gaviria, 2016). In
the documentary, drug court offered individuals facing criminal charges for
drug use and possession an opportunity to enter a substance abuse recovery
program instead of going straight to prison (Gaviria, 2016). The requirements
of Drug Court are harsh because it is so easy to fall back into the same bad
habits along the way. Those who were eligible to participate in Drug Court had
to get tested often, appear in court regularly, and attend meetings for
substance abuse, and made regular court appearances in order remain an active
participant in the Drug Court program.

 In these situations, there is not one method
that is the best technique to resolve every issue. There are many factors that
can play in the success of recovery. Each patient is very unique and each case
must be handled individually. I found it a tad bit frustrating that even as
addiction listed as priority most of the methods implemented were not as
effective. It was a temporary fix. The establishment of systems, care models,
and programs were more so of a bandage over the wound, but nonetheless a
positive step in the right direction.

One of the solutions I commonly
heard about consisted of a program called, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion
(LEAD). These harm-reduction models collaborate with law enforcement to find
alternative approaches and prevent prison being the answer. The idea of drug
court was a bittersweet idea with a similar message. It helped nonviolent
offenders seeking change. The downside is the court system giving these
offenders an opportunity to be successful after hearing them plead and
apologize, and they just go right back to doing what they want. It’s hard to
stay clear of the mission when you consistently see digression.

Another interesting part of the
documentary was the medication-assisted treatment plans. It consisted of
addicts driving long distances to these clinics for methadone, naltrexone, and
suboxone treatments to reduce cravings and withdrawals. These medications work by
blocking the neuroreceptors in the brain that provides pleasure from any use of
heroin and opioid (Gaviria, 2016). These medications are regulated because it
has potential to become addictive. I was questioning how an opiate can treat
another opioid. A lot of residents that lived in the area had this concern of
immorality to feed the addiction with what is inadvertently causing it. They
didn’t want these clinics being around the neighborhood hence why they were
placed in remote areas. It is ironic that opioids are available to everyone,
yet clinicians are restricted to how much they can prescribe potentially
lifesaving medication a year (suboxone). Contrary to belief, in the video
Methadone seemed to change lives by decreasing risks and harms associated with
unsafe drug use. Unsafe drug use can link to health consequences such as HIV
transmission, hepatitis, and death from overdose.

Overall, it is easy to identify a
problem, develop and implement a solution, and do an evaluation. However, the
planning stages are crucial. Where is the funding for the treatments,
prescription monitoring, and restoration coming from? The support from the
public and government will play a factor in making this work by putting the
money to use for provider education, increased access to treatment, and the
proper training and use of naloxone. This is beneficial to the government and
public because the return on investment (ROI) will be far greater. Imagine
cutting down on over $190 billion in cost of illegal drugs with programs that
cost nearly a billion dollars.

There are many recommendations to
be made. The LEAD program can be improved if they work on finding ways to help
their clients find jobs once they are in recovery. It’s very hard for someone
to stay clean if that person can’t become a productive member of society. Also,
increasing the services provided can make it easier for addicts to access that
can later reduce relapse rates. Additionally, a consumer report could be useful
as a benchmark to document what best practice are recommended. We need to get
the insurance companies involved in providing extended coverage since the
standard 30 days isn’t enough to help each addict.  Medication assisted-treatment shouldn’t be
denied and the restrictions on them should be reviewed for lesser boundaries
with proper monitoring due to its effectiveness.


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