“Heroin: Cape Cod, USA,”

As a person personally and professionally involved in changing the conversation about substance use disorders and the opioid epidemic now taking the lives of so many, I was deeply disappointed in the HBO documentary, “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA,”  which aired on December 28, 2015. Since HBO has produced many documentaries with Dr. Nora Volkow: http://www.hbo.com/addiction/understanding_addiction/12_pleasure_pathway.html educating us about addiction as a brain disease, I was shocked they would produce a portrayal that only focused on the problem and offered no solutions.

As defined, a documentary is supposed to give us the facts about a specific event or person. This documentary did point out one fact: those who suffer from the disease of opioid addiction can come from affluent homes and neighborhoods – but that’s all it did! No other facts were offered about opioid substance use disorder or the treatment of this brain disease. It was just another television expose’ focusing on the negative drama of the illness. At the end of the program it gave less than three minutes to one young woman who was experiencing a successful recovery without giving any specifics about her treatment except to say she was attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. The remaining 60 minutes of the program focused on the devastation of the illness for the other young people. No solutions or pathways for recovery were ever offered. This kind of programming is what keeps us focused on the wreckage of the illness, and fuels the stigma, shame, and ignorance about the disease instead of focusing on the solutions and hope of recovery.