PBS Frontline Airs “Chasing Heroin” Tonight
One of the main topics highlighted in the documentary is the racial and socioeconomic shift in heroin use. That is, it wasn’t until heroin reached the white suburbs that the government and the media really began to take notice.
But the documentary doesn’t really come across as blaming. Instead, it takes a look at current methods of dealing with the problem, and provides a brief history of prescription opioid abuse, which began around the turn of the century. That is, the big pharma claim that drugs such as Oxycontin were less likely to cause addiction – a claim that was not backed up by evidence (except for perhaps some evidence to the contrary.)
Therefore, patients were getting addicted to prescription painkillers, and soon turning to street heroin to maintain that addiction. Once tolerance begins to increase, the user may no longer be able to garner enough of the drug to sustain their habit. And heroin is cheaper than many prescription opioids.
Indeed, Mexican drug cartels saw this coming, and years ago began establishing contacts in suburban and middle-class neighborhoods. Hence, the imminent trafficking of black tar heroin.
A Seattle program called LEAD “law enforcement assisted diversion” is examined. This program does not arrest addicts, but rather treats them and directs them to rehabilitation, counseling, sober living housing, and the like.
Concerns about aiding criminals are also addressed – moreover, the problem of criminal justice vs. public health concerns regarding heroin use.
One expert contends that we must stop approaching the epidemic “as a lifestyle or a moral issue” or else we are “we’re going to continue to pay the price”. This includes lives lost, millions of dollars wasted on incarceration, and futile law enforcement efforts.
Chasing Heroin is must-see television for anyone interested in finding the causes and solutions to the heroin epidemic. Previewing critics have called it “engaging”, leaving the viewer feeling “invigorated” by current efforts being made to help mitigate this terrible plague.
You can watch the trailer here.