We are living in a dystopian world right now with the coronavirus raging. Each day the headline news is more stores, theatres, cities and states shutting down. It is dizzying to keep up with all of the latest news and coverage around COVID-19. The numbers are on the rise, and as I write this article over a hundred Americans are now confirmed as casualties of this pandemic. The country is becoming united around the idea that drastic and severe action must be taken to stop the spread of the virus while we still can.
By now there is a long list of ailments that kill hundreds of people around the world, ranging from heart disease to rabies. One of those persistent killers that has been on the rise for the past decade is the opioid epidemic. It has been raging for years, and estimates are between 150 to as high as 200 deaths a day just from opioid-related overdoses. Opioids claim the same number of lives in one day as the whole sweep of the coronavirus in our country to date. I am not saying that this current pandemic doesn’t demand this massive response (almost shutting down American businesses and putting over half of all American jobs in jeopardy), but I believe that in light of the massive death toll of the opioid epidemic that we as a country could and should do more.
I believe we could have a measured and significant response to stop the death toll and spread of these drugs and treat addiction holistically. We not only owe it to all the victims and the families of the opioid epidemic to do more and to curb the death count, but one day when we open our eyes as a nation to this situation I believe we will be indignant that more hasn’t already been done to save lives. We are seeing the country come together to fight against this virus, but now we can learn from the actions of today to come together unified to fight back against the spread of drugs.
After losing multiple classmates, doing extensive research and development around this crisis, interviews, and getting caught up on this situation I decided I had to do something in response to this epidemic. As a filmmaker, I wanted to use my gifts and skills to do my part, and so I began writing. To write an accurate script, I needed to dive into this dark hole and learn as much as I could about this crisis that has been going on for many more years than I had been aware of. Overwhelmingly, the repeated reason why the opioid epidemic had become so severe was because of a shared feeling of despair amongst young people: despair that things will ever improve, despair of future opportunities, despair that living is a worthwhile reason enough not to risk a life with decidedly deadly drugs.
As the world adjusts to this new era of quarantines, jobs lost or in jeopardy, schedules changed, plans cancelled, and economy plummeting, we can expect some measure of despair to seep into our collective psyches. It’s never been too far from any of us, but circumstances will no doubt be challenging for all of us. It’s now that we can and should embrace those who have always felt despair a measure closer than the rest of us, and have made different and perhaps destructive choices to try and deal with it. Empathy starts, as it always does, from understanding the shoes someone else walks in. And empathy, in turn, can lead to restored relationships and healing words, both for those ensnared by opioids and their families, as well as anyone struggling to see the hope in a brighter, healthier future.
I made a film that shows what happens when a town (like our nation today) realizes that an epidemic (or a pandemic) must be confronted and the death count has to be reckoned with by all costs. Even if personal conveniences or usual freedoms are at stake — we must unite to stop people from dying. That seems like a worthwhile cause today, and in my fictional film about a small town coming together to fight back against drugs by whatever means necessary, theirs is a measured response to the hundreds of kids dying every day from opioids and its deadly derivative of heroin.
My movie “Shooting Heroin” (2020) had a large nationwide theatrical release scheduled for Friday April 3, but despite all theatres closing this week we are moving forward with our release on all cable and digital platforms. This is a timely movie and we must do our part to tell this important story and share critical details about fighting the opioid epidemic even in the midst of our own coronavirus pandemic.