By Dave B.
The Oscar-nominated short documentary Heroin(e) (Netflix) relays the struggle of three women in Huntington, West Virginia who are attempting to stem the tide of the rising flood of America’s opiate epidemic’s impact on their community. Fire Chief Jan Rader, drug court Judge Patricia Keller, and Necia Freeman of the Brown Bag Ministry make truly herculean efforts to wring a few victories out of a situation that is ultimately doomed to be an unmitigated, unalterable defeat.
I’m glad that Heroin(e) isn’t longer than 39 minutes. It’s depressing. It can’t be disputed that all three women make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and should be applauded for doing so. But, I found it very disheartening to see the number of interviews and overdose call responses that were interrupted by another overdose call response. Despite the best efforts of these women and their communities, the opiate epidemic in Huntington clearly gets worse and worse with no end in sight.
I could go into detail about the beneficial work of each of these people. But if you want to learn about that, you can watch the movie. What I’ll say is, what truly impressed me is that these women continue to fight knowing that their cause is doomed. Perhaps the most successful at changing the dynamic of the epidemic is Judge Keller, because she uses a combination of compassion and toughness to enforce an ethic of personal responsibility on those who find their way to her court. But for every individual who successfully contains their addiction, there are innumerable failures. Freeman and Chief Rader are easy to empathize with, but the documentary’s objectiveness makes it hard not to draw the conclusion that temporarily saving and improving the lives of their community’s addicts won’t change the equation that most of them will eventually die as a direct result of an overdose or related medical or social condition.
I like Heroin(e). I really did. But, if you’re looking for something to watch that will provide you with hope for America’s opioid crisis, this isn’t it. It’s a frank look at the reality of the situation, which is bleaker than I have the vocabulary to describe. The beauty of this documentary lies in its telling, in their own words, of women on the front lines of this struggle relating their few and far between victories. If the efforts of these women could be multiplied by several million, the United States might be able to overcome its opioid crisis. As things stand, however, this is a scourge that doesn’t have an end in sight. Heroin(e) does an excellent job of showing what it means to fight knowing that the outcome will go against you. I understand why it was nominated for an Oscar and I recommend it.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.