Why You Should Watch “Heroin(e)” on Netflix

I found this intense, enlightening short-film called “Heroin(e),” about the opioid epidemic by chance as I scrolled through my Netflix queue over the Labor Day weekend. The film follows the work of three women from Huntington, West Virginia, a once bustling industrial town that has in recent years been named the overdose capital of America boasting an overdose rate that is 10 times the national average

The women fill the following crucial roles in combating the epidemic that has weaved its way into their society: Jan Rader is the Fire Chief of Huntington and a first responder to overdoses every day, Patricia Keller is the judge who presides over drug court, and Necia Freeman runs Brown Bag Ministry providing food to women on the streets of Huntington. 

Huntington is a blue-collar town in which residents have turned to heroin to feed the addiction brought on by prescriptions to opioids and painkillers that in the past have proven to be a necessity for the chronic pain and injury brought on by the physical labor in which residents engage. 

The women recognize the gravity of how this turn to harder drugs will go on to drown their communities and, as Jan Rader points out, the potential to quite literally bankrupt our nation. When Rader first raised that point, I was not quite sure of the validity of such a statement, until she backed her statement up with numbers. Rader shockingly states a “conservative estimate” that the residents of Cabell County, a mere 96,000 citizens, spent 100 million on healthcare costs pertaining to IV drug use in 2015. I found that estimate mind-boggling, especially considering that Rader claims it is a lowballing estimate. She also brings to the viewer’s attention that she responds to around 7-8 overdoses daily. 

Considering the shocking numbers Rader provides in the onset of the documentary, I cannot help but recognize the fact that people like Rader, Keller, and Freeman approach their roles in combating this epidemic with an uncommon sense of compassion for those affected. The compassion of these women gives a humanizing light to what our society tells us to be the lowest of the low: drug addicts. 

In watching this documentary, I noticed that none of the women ever come from a place of condescension, which in turn helps them to build trust with those in their communities who suffer from addiction. With the trust these women build comes the ability to truly help people afflicted by addiction. 

I think that the women of Huntington, West Virginia have the right approach to combating the United States’ opioid epidemic that takes 130 lives a day, that being having compassion and viewing addicts as actual people. Their ability to be so selfless and genuine in terms of helping their community is an admirable trait that I think more of us should try to adapt into our own view of not only this epidemic plaguing our nation, but life in general. 

I can say that before I watched this I was aware of the opioid problem in the United States but fairly ignorant about it’s far-reaching, toxic stronghold, especially in rural communities such as Huntington. The devastation and plight of this community should serve as a reminder to us all that just because an issue does not affect you directly, does not mean that it is not your job to be educated and compassionate. In short, watch Herion(e) and keep this crucial conversation going. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction call SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)