“Heroin(e)”: Empathy & Innovation in Drug Abuse Response
Lifesaving Naloxone: Compassionate Intervention
“Heroin(e)” is a Netflix documentary that follows three women: a fire chief, Jan Rader, a judge, Patricia Keller, and a street missionary, Necia Freeman, and it shows a closer look into the opioid crisis in West Virginia, especially in Huntington, WV, where it has been called the overdose capital in America. In the documentary, it was mentioned that the overdose death rate is ten times the national average. It shows what each of the three women sees and encounters every day regarding the opioid crisis and what they are trying to help with this crisis. It shows these women do everything in their power to help.
The opioid is “a compound resembling opium in addictive or physiological effects” (n.d., 2019) which can include heroin, synthetic opioids such as pain relievers that can be available legally by prescription (codeine, morphine, etc.), and fentanyl. According to The National Institution on Drug Abuse, “the misuse of and addiction of opioids is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare” (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 21 to 29% of patients that are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. This issue has become a public health crisis that increases misuse of opioids and overdoses, and injecting this drug, or any drug, can spread infectious diseases.
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Jan Rader was the first woman to be fire chief in Huntington, and she brought Naloxone into the paramedics and fire department as well to help when they were called to an overdose and paramedics hadn’t arrived or would take time to arrive. Naloxone is a “medication that is designed to reverse opioid overdose” (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018). People who overdose and are injected with this afterward wake up within minutes and are taken to the hospital. It is truly a lifesaver for this medication. Many people think having this kind of medication enables drug addicts to continue doing drugs, but Jan Rader said that she doesn’t care if she has to use it 50 times, that’s 50 chances to help someone get help. And this shows that she truly cares for people and wants this epidemic to end.
Compassionate Justice & Street Outreach
Patricia Keller is a judge, and she does drug court. Drug courts are “specialized court programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems” (Drug Courts, 2018). She does this by showing that she cares for the people who are part of the program and supporting and giving them resources to help them keep clean and maintain drug-free. While watching this, you can see she created a bond with the people who attend drug courts, and you can see she cares for these people. But just because she cares, she is still a judge, and she has to do her job when they don’t do their part.
When they lie to her or their probation officer, it is not taken lightly, and there are consequences when they relapse and are honest about it, she is happy they are honest, but there are consequences for that as well, or when they are clean for a certain amount of months, they can graduate from drug court. What I found interesting, in the end, they do a “graduation ceremony” for those who are “graduating” from drug court, and I think this is very nice and helpful to those who are in this program to see you can overcome this addiction and have a better life afterward.
Necia Freeman is a street missionary who is part of the Brown Bag Ministry. They go out once a week and hand out a bag of food for those living on the streets who need it and hygiene bags as well. While doing this, she also helps those who are addicted to drugs and opioids find a place to recover, stay the night, etc. She has created a bond with the people who live on the streets with addictions, and they know she can help them when they need it.
There are many connections I can make with this documentary with the things we are learning about in class. I think that drug addicts are usually pushed to the side and forgotten about because they do drugs. Some may think they chose this lifestyle. But in reality, it is a disease. It’s important for us to educate ourselves about this epidemic that is happening and find ways to prevent it and ways to that minimize the deaths that can come with it. With this epidemic, overdosing is an outcome that can lead to death.
Empathy’s Transformative Impact
From watching this documentary, I have learned many things throughout this documentary. The major thing I have learned from this documentary will be if you want to help, you have to show that you care. Patricia Keller, a judge in this documentary, leads the drug court, and she shows that she cares by sympathizing with the people who attend the drug courts. She does this by listening to them, telling them not to lie, always telling the truth, and always attending.
I think it’s very inspiring to see people who actually care, want to help, and are willing to help others to change if they want to because it first starts with themselves, and then others can help them achieve that. And by being in the social work field, I know that for me to be able to help others, I will first need to create a bond with them, sympathize, and show that I care and that I am here to help them achieve their goals. And by doing that, I must first show that I care.
- Drug Courts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nij.gov/topics/courts/drug-courts/Pages/welcome.aspx
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, April 04). Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/opioid-overdose-reversal-naloxone-narcan-evzio
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis