Opioid Wars: An Honest Look at the Addiction Epidemic

A new documentary is highlighting the ongoing opioid addiction epidemic in Maine, but other first-hand accounts have also been filmed in an effort to show the hard-hitting reality of opioid addiction across the country. Viewers are given unprecedented access to what can only be described as an "uncomfortable" reality.

The Daily Struggle to Feed an Addiction

Al Jazeera America's documentary series, Fault Lines, traveled to several Maine cities for a recent episode with correspondent Sebastian Walker.

In addition to interviewing heroin addicts at an addiction counseling program in Bangor, the episode also shows an ambulance team in Portland as they respond to an opioid-related call. Walker also interviews a woman in Kennebunkport who lost her husband to an opiate overdose and later follows a local heroin user who offers to shoot up on camera.

Maine has one of the worst rates of opioid addiction among U.S. states. Out of the 176 overdose deaths recorded in the state last year, 105 were attributed to prescription opiates and 34 were related to heroin.

"We're seeing [overdoses] so frequently, and not the people you would expect," said Lt. Tim Nangle of the Portland Fire Department. "It's not the junkie, it's the 25-year-old kid. What we're finding is that they can't get the prescription medication they used to get … so they buy heroin."

Same Problem, Different Location

Other documentaries filmed in various other parts of the country have also highlighted how opioid addiction has affected both urban and rural communities.

Oxyana, a groundbreaking documentary directed by Sean Dunne, examines the small mining town of Oceana, WV. Despite the town's small size and population, Oceana has been dubbed the unofficial OxyContin capital of the world, with most of its residents now firmly hooked on the opiate pain-relieving drug. One 23-year-old who appeared in the film explained that "half of my graduating class is dead because of pills. You'll see grandparents raising the kids because the parents are too messed up to take care of 'em. That's my generation."

Orange County, CA resident Natalie Costa teamed with Brent Huff for Behind the Orange Curtain, a documentary that shows how and where prescription drugs are being used in the area. The film profiles families struggling with opioid addiction and also interviews family members, interventionists and physicians.

Costa said she hoped the documentary would serve as a call to action.

Opiate Addiction is a National Issue

While the HBO documentary ADDICTION doesn't focus on one specific part of the country, it does offer a chilling reality check. Directors highlight the unique issues that painkiller addicts face when they're ready to get sober and interviews several addicts who are trying medication management therapies to beat their addictions. Viewers meet and follow one couple as they are trying the opiate blocker Suboxone in a last-ditch effort to get well.

Learn more about opioid abuse and addiction.

Photo credits: Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Al Jazeera, Flickr/Gregory Cinque

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