I recently saw the new HBO documentary entitled “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA” and feel compelled to address the glaring omission from its coverage - HOPE.
The film is provocative, and the filmmaker offers an unflinching glimpse into the daily nightmare of young adults addicted to heroin and, to a very limited extent, their families. There is no glamorization – you are up close and personal with individuals who should be in the prime of their lives and instead exist in darkness and despair. Their baby pictures flash across the screen serving as a painful reminder of their innocence and potential, now seemingly lost to the opiate epidemic permeating their generation. However, it ultimately falls short of telling the complete story. There is little to no education about addiction, access to treatment and hope by also highlighting those who have achieved a life in recovery.
America is facing a public health crisis, and I believe that every piece of content about addiction must not only educate the audience about the epidemic, but also provide a critical opportunity to highlight available solutions.
Trudy Avery, a staff member at Caron, belongs to a parenting group on Cape Cod, and briefly shares her experience firsthand and personal perspective in the film. She describes the excruciating pain parents face as they desperately try to save their child’s life. Thankfully, Trudy’s son has been in recovery from heroin for three years and is doing very well.
As a long-standing, not-for-profit leader in the field, it’s a critical part of Caron’s mission to elevate the dialogue about access to care for individuals and families and to provide extensive scholarship dollars for treatment. We are engaging with government leaders, local community organizations, physicians, members of the media and many others about the necessity of effective treatment solutions.
In the film, the viewer experiences a seemingly endless cycle of relapse and even death for at least two addicts. If a suffering addict or family member watching the film has no previous exposure to treatment, he or she might believe there is no hope beyond addiction. You are not afforded a look at the viable treatment options that are helping thousands of individuals recover.
Addressing the heroin epidemic requires a multi-faceted societal approach for any chance of meaningful and long-term success. It requires a significant shift away from the medical reliance on opiates as a primary solution to treating pain and an understanding on the part of consumers of the dangers of opiates even when prescribed by a physician. It demands a personalized and comprehensive approach that addresses an individual’s overarching behavioral health – and includes medical, psychiatric, psychological, spiritual and family treatment among other facets. It necessitates a long-term aftercare plan for both the patient and the family, which may include non-addictive medical assistance, as well as ongoing behavioral therapy and emotional support.
The good news is that we’re invested in this approach at Caron and our outcomes show that it works. We share our best practices and continue to learn from others, as well as invest in ongoing research and innovation. We want families to know that they are not alone, that treatment can make a difference, and that heroin addiction does not have to be the final chapter for their loved one – there is hope.