The Rise of Fentanyl: Drug Addiction On The I-95 – Two Years On


# Oh, say can you see…? #
Get him on the ground.
HE GROANS
Get him on the ground.
Sir!
It is the number one public health
challenge of our time.
Sir!
Pulse.
MAN CONTINUES TO GROAN
It’s not a poor people thing
any more, it’s not a inner-city
ghetto drug any more,
it’s everywhere.
It’s hard to even recognise some
of these people when they’ve lost
a lot of their humanity down here.
Tomorrow’s not a promise.
It’s not heroin that’s
killing our people, it’s fentanyl.
MUSIC: Star-Spangled Banner
I’m not going to die from this.
Like, I’m not.
Not going to die from this.
It was like, we went from
20 overdoses to 80 overdoses
in the matter of a month and we
were like, “What the hell happened?”
# In the land of the free… #
I feel like it’s a waste
of my life,
it’s a fucking
waste of everything.
# And the home of the… #
I would say that fentanyl
is the Horseman of the Apocalypse,
and it’s the one named Death.
# ..brave. #
SIRENS WAIL
For decades, Interstate 95
has been notorious for its role
in the illegal
drug trade in America.
Stretching from Florida to Maine,
this corridor gives cartels
easy entry to major cities.
We first met Anna two years ago.
She was a new resident
on Baltimore’s backstreets
of addiction.
A lot of people walking by.
All right, come on…
SHE YELPS
Do not do that!
Dude, you scratched me!
Are you OK?
Little bit of a rush?
Anna was recently released from jail
after serving two weeks
for prostitution –
which means two weeks on no heroin.
What time is it? And since then,
she claims to have only taken pills.
What time is it?
Is there something in it?
Barely.
If you want it, I’ll go grab it…
The last two years,
I guess nothing’s changed
but everything’s changed.
I know that sounds really weird
but I’m still down here,
I’m still jumping
from house to house.
I’m still with the same guy.
I feel a little trapped.
I’m scared to shoot up again
but I know eventually
I probably will if I stay down here.
I’m not sure
if I see my future right now.
I mean really when
I think about it, I don’t know
what I’m going to do in three years,
I don’t know what I’m going
to do tomorrow, I don’t know
what I’m going to do in an hour.
I mean, all I can do is hope
that I’ll do the right thing,
you know, and not
what I’m doing now.
This is gang-run west Baltimore,
the epicentre of Baltimore’s
opioid epidemic.
Patty, a former addict,
formed Angels of Addiction
just after her son died
of a heroin overdose.
Here, walk on my feet.
A lifeline to the lost,
she has fed and clothed addicts
and their families
on these streets for years.
Any time, 24/7.
I lost my only son in 2002,
and God blessed me with many,
many children and
it’s an honour to serve them
and they’re very precious people,
a lot suffer from the disease
of addiction, it’s a very big
problem, an epidemic here.
I could never count throughout
the years how many people
that I’ve helped or known
that have died from this disease.
At least 100 people
in the last few years.
It’s sad because they’re my…
You know, next time we come,
somebody might say,
oh, so-and-so didn’t make it.
That happens often.
Especially since this
fentanyl has been out.
Fentanyl is very dangerous,
because it’s stronger
than the heroin and people are
overdosing on it and it’s, you know,
really scary and very
alarming and we’re…
We’re losing a lot of people.
I chase fentanyl,
I chase carfentanil
because it’s the only dope
I can feel any more.
But it is a big problem,
because it’s so powerful,
people that have been clean
for years and just recently decided
to relapse, erm, they end up OD-ing.
You know,
off of a half or a quarter pill.
That’s what it is, it’s not heroin.
I used to get high,
I don’t get high no more.
I’m just addicted to the cut,
fentanyl.
They stick it in capsules
and then you stick
it in your arm,
not knowing what you’re getting.
And it could be a little bit
of nothing or a whole lot
of too much.
And I’ve had friends drop…
Several, more than several,
handfuls, that have had
a little bit too much.
Every day coming down here,
seeing my friends,
I would hear about one of them
overdosing or dying.
It’s very dangerous and
it’s killing a lot of people.
The sickness of addiction
is when you hear people overdosing
and dying, the addict wants to know,
where’s that stuff?
Because they want the stronger,
longer-lasting stuff.
But they don’t realise
that that’s that next hit,
that may be the last.
The bottle’s empty.
Thank you, ma’am. I appreciate it.
Probably nine out of ten people
do fentanyl and don’t even know it.
None of us know what we’re doing.
A lot of the people that we know
either died or moved
or went to jail.
Some go to rehab
but they always come back.
Everyone out here
is hooked on fentanyl.
It’s not really so much the heroin,
like I said, it’s not even in it.
The fentanyl’s what
everybody’s into it now.
I said I’m not going to leave
my boyfriend ever.
And if he’s down here,
I’m down here.
Either he goes to jail,
or I go to jail,
we’ve never been clean together
since I’ve been with him.
Well, since we’ve gotten high.
She said she hasn’t used
no needles, so I’m proud
of her, she’s been doing good.
But she always threatens me,
so that’s her threat,
and that would make my heart,
I told her it would break my heart.
We meet Anna as she searches
for her morning fix.
Addiction seems to be fighting back.
Hi.
Hiya. Hiya.
Yes, I’m fine,
you don’t have to ask.
SHE MUMBLES
I’m fine.
How was your night?
Great!
Tell us what happened?
Nothing.
The last thing I feel like doing
is fucking talking right now.
Yeah, I’m still here.
Anna and Dave squat in abandoned
houses, moving frequently to avoid
being found by landlords or police.
The landlord actually ended up
coming while we were inside
so we had to hurry up and go hide
in one of the rooms
and then escape out the house
when he wasn’t looking.
So I again got
interrupted on my sleep.
What did you spend your money on?
I got a pill, he got a pill
and then we each bought crack
after we got our deal.
That we needed, like gas and stuff.
What were the pills?
I don’t know, dope?
What else?
Then you said you had to go
get some more money,
how did you do that?
Go and get a date.
Anna prostitutes herself
for the money needed to buy drugs
for herself and her boyfriend Dave.
It never ends, you know?
I wasn’t even
planning on going outside.
It’s just that we didn’t
have any money.
So because of that,
it took me for ever to get a date.
What time of day were
you out trying to get a date?
It was night-time.
What time of night?
Something like five in the morning.
But I didn’t go until
like one in the morning.
I can’t remember,
but I usually go in and out,
I don’t just…
What I mean is I usually go outside,
I’ll get a date then I hurry.
Get the money, either rob them
or just do a super date
and come back home and then
I go back out, before morning.
Or it depends, sometimes I
don’t even know I want to do drugs
and we hang out.
Most people, when they are 23,
have a goal in life,
have wishes, desires.
Do you have any?
No.
I don’t plan no more.
Why not?
I guess because it’s like
too late to fix.
Anna still claims that
she has not injected heroin
since her release from jail.
Her body tells a different story.
She heads off in search for a place
to stay for the night.
But that wasn’t her first priority.
I was just sniffing it just to try
it and make sure the powder’s…
Like, heroin’s bitter,
but fentanyl has kind of like got
a sweeter taste to it.
Anna is back in the
full grip of her addiction.
I don’t know how to live
in any other way no more.
Am I wrong?
Like, we don’t know what else to do,
do you understand?
Like, when people break their arm
and legs,
they need rehab to walk.
Like, we need rehab to learn
how to live, like all over again.
Name’s Nathan O’Brien.
I’m from Kentucky.
My name is Olivia Light,
I’m from Ojai, California.
My name’s Ed, I’m from
New Haven, Connecticut.
I’m Johnny Montasanno,
I’m from Long Island, New York.
My name’s Al, I’m from Ocean County,
New Jersey.
My name’s Joe Wilkins,
I’m from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
My name’s Tommy,
I’m from Birmingham, Alabama.
My name’s Millie,
I’m from Currituck, North Carolina.
I’m addicted to heroin.
I was addicted to heroin
and prescription opiates.
I was addicted to heroin.
I struggled with heroin
for four years.
I’m a recovering heroin addict.
I struggle with prescription
pills and heroin.
My addiction was
pain pills and heroin.
I struggled with heroin.
Over the course of the last
two years, I wouldn’t say
that it got better.
I would say that it’s gotten worse.
We see more and more patients
coming in that have experienced
multiple overdoses
prior to coming in.
I really don’t see an end in it.
I don’t see it getting
better at all.
Jodi has dealt with the
opioid crisis since she was a child.
Her mother is a lifelong addict.
And she now runs an addiction
recovery centre in Florida.
This addiction changed me
from being a talented,
ambitious young kid
into basically a degenerate,
just a shadow.
It took my family,
my friends, my freedom.
It took everything.
My addiction took my self-worth,
my dignity, my self-respect.
My health, my friends and family,
my education, money.
What are they going to do with me?
I couldn’t get a job,
I couldn’t keep the job.
Most of my family members
consider me dead.
I’m thankful that we have a place
where patients can come,
seek help in a safe environment
to start working on the reasons
why they turn to drugs.
But every single day
it’s a multitude of new people.
It’s like the floodgates have opened
and it’s just non-stop.
I’ve been clean
for four and a half years.
And two months,
I’ll have five years.
Currently, I’ve been clean
over 100 days.
Just over one year.
I’ve been clean for,
the 23rd of this month,
it will be 60 days.
Since March 20, 2017.
I mean, the date resonates
in my brain, March 19, 2016.
That’s when I got clean
and it wasn’t easy,
but it was the most glorious
experience of my life.
Brittney seems to have travelled
a long way from her days
of addiction.
But the beaches of Jacksonville,
Florida are only a couple of hours’
drive from Orlando,
where Jodi first introduced
us to Brittney two years ago.
When Brittney admitted to
The Recovery Village,
she absolutely was
ready for treatment
and admitted the fact
that she had an addiction problem.
She had OD’d several times –
very, very close calls –
and she was ready.
I’m addicted to heroin.
SHE SOBS
I want to stop, but I can’t.
It’s that right here – I remember
thinking how would it feel
if my mother would have seen me
at her kitchen table,
where, you know,
I grew up eating at.
I don’t know, it’s just when
you’re in addiction, you don’t care.
Find the Narcan, find the Narcan.
Seeing that video,
watching her at this table…
..and nodding off as they call it,
nodding and falling asleep
and then pretty much
drooling, it was horrible.
It was really devastating
to see that.
I was sick for three months,
like, throwing up constantly.
I thought it was a bad flu.
I got all these different
tests done,
one of them was a pregnancy test.
I remember her coming back
and telling me, “You’re positive.”
And I was like,
“I’m positive for what?”
And she told me I was pregnant
and I immediately started bawling.
Brittney had a baby girl,
beautiful, sweet baby girl.
Say cheese, baby, say cheese.
And about a month after that,
sadly, Brittney relapsed again.
And this was very devastating.
My mom…
Me and my mom got in a
fight earlier in that morning.
My mom said some things
she didn’t mean and I was already
in a very bad mental place.
I went out to get formula
and ended up at a gas station
and an old dealer ended up
being at that same gas station.
Ended up purchasing a bag,
but I came home and we had a nice
dinner, held my baby,
I sat right here.
We had been sitting
here at the table,
chitchatting and the baby
was snoozing.
Brittney had asked me, that
she wanted to go to the bathroom.
So the baby started
waking up and I held the baby.
Then Brittney was in the bathroom.
I remember sitting on the toilet
and talking to my mom
from the living room.
And I snorted the whole bag.
My mom’s in the other
room with my child and,
and I just kind of nodded off
and I felt OK for a little bit.
And my mom’s voice got distant
and then everything went black.
And I had the baby in my arms
and I go into the bathroom
and she is passed out, gurgling
and drooling from the mouth,
leaning against the wall,
sitting on the toilet.
Um…
It was devastating, it was scary.
I had to get her to wake up
and I ran into the living room,
the baby was sleeping again.
I put her down in her little bed
and ran back into the bathroom
shaking and screaming at Brittney
and smacking her on her face
to try to get her to come out of it.
And she’d finally came out of it,
I’m at the same time trying
to call 911.
And came out of it to my mom
holding my baby in her arms,
on the phone with paramedics,
trying to bring me to.
I just felt nothing but anger.
Anger, frustration again,
and I really, I was so angry at her,
so angry and so hurt,
and so confused how
she could do that.
I did not know what happened.
But once I started
putting things together,
I was just kind of
in disbelief at myself.
So…
I wasn’t thinking about my daughter,
I wasn’t, I didn’t care about my mom
or how she felt.
I just felt so depressed.
And not good enough,
like, I just felt like my daughter
didn’t deserve me.
She deserved better.
I felt like my mother
could raise her,
I mean, it’s just…
But, yeah.
You just don’t think
that they’re going do this again,
especially now,
especially with a baby,
especially knowing
that you have that beautiful
little baby, how could do you this?
This drug pulls them in,
like none other.
It steals their dreams,
it steals their lives.
It’s almost stole my grandbaby’s
mother from us again.
I’ve told Brittney that one
of the saddest things I would ever
have to do would be to have to tell
my granddaughter about her mother,
that her mother was an addict,
and she tried very hard to get
past this addiction,
but was unable to,
and died from it.
In 2017, we had just under 72,000
Americans die of drug overdoses.
Jay, Jay look at me.
That’s a phenomenal number.
It’s almost hard to imagine.
Has he taken drugs or anything?
I have no idea.
It is the number one public health
challenge of our time.
Opioids are now the biggest
drug epidemic in American history.
The number of deaths from
opioid abuse have skyrocketed
over the past 15 years…
Killing tens of thousands
of Americans every year.
That’s more deaths than
from car accidents and from guns.
Emergency services overwhelmed.
Another family burying a loved one.
She overdosed in her car,
while her two-year-old daughter
was in the back seat.
CHILD CRIES
CHILD SOBS
In certain age groups,
between 25 and 34
in the United States,
20% of all deaths
are due to opioid overdoses.
Of that 72,000, the majority
are opioids and the majority
of the opioids are the synthetic
products, such as fentanyl.
Fentanyl is taking the opioid
epidemic to a new level of urgency.
Fentanyl, a drug more
powerful than heroin.
It’s 50-100 times
more potent than morphine.
Fentanyl’s so potent, you could die
with the syringe still in your arm.
It’s so potent,
so incredibly potent,
that it only takes a few
milligrams to cause a death,
and now we see fentanyl lacing
not only the heroin supply,
but we see it in cocaine and
methamphetamine,
in all sorts of drugs because
it’s dirt cheap.
If heroin’s the devil,
to continue with
the biblical analogy,
I would say that fentanyl is
a Horseman of the Apocalypse
and it’s the one named Death,
because it just brings death.
All right.
Yeah, if you just go
straight here I’ll show you
some of the more affected areas.
Kensington is Philadelphia’s
Ground Zero for opioids.
And it has just been
declared a disaster zone.
Dan’s family has also
battled with addiction.
He now fights on behalf
of those still struggling.
I mean, this becomes
what the neighbourhood is.
You see, most people around here
you’re going to see are high.
You know, so the neighbourhood
is almost entirely consistent
of people who are abusing.
Can’t walk through
this neighbourhood
without being offered drugs.
It’s hard to even
recognise some of these people,
it just seems like
they’re in a jungle.
And they’ve lost a lot
of their humanity down here.
Heroin’s been in Philadelphia
for decades,
this is not a new story.
It’s just that recently the death
toll has gotten so out of hand
and the farther you look,
the more you realise how truly
desperate things have become.
I believe in 2016
we had 272 homicides
and over 900 overdose deaths.
Last year we had around
300 homicides and 1,200 overdosed.
So it went from being
three times the murder rate
to four times the murder rate
in one year.
If you look at the charts
of what opioids are killing people
or what drugs are killing people,
in recent years fentanyl
has just taken off
literally just like a rocket,
but now because of, you know,
how deep some of these people
are in the throes of addiction
and how high their tolerance is,
fentanyl has become introduced
slowly into the mix so that people
can get high again,
because what some people
don’t realise, is that a lot
of these people who are using drugs
on a regular basis aren’t
necessarily using it to get high,
they’re using it to maintain
their addiction, make their headache
go away, to sort of regulate.
Any amount of fentanyl would kill
most people who aren’t
addicted almost instantly.
If it continues to get worse,
like, where does it go from here?
I am a heroin user.
I’ve been using heroin
for about 20 years.
Alex is just one of the 70,000
active heroin users currently
living in Philadelphia.
This ain’t no life for nobody,
I mean.
This is like the bottom
of the barrel right here.
This ain’t for nobody.
I don’t wish this on my worst enemy.
I generally have to score about
six times a day to keep myself well,
just to be able to function, really.
It’s all it comes down to,
just to be able to function.
I hope that it’s fentanyl
because I’ve been doing it for quite
some time, and heroin
that’s actually heroin
will not get me well.
My body actually
craves the fentanyl.
It’s different,
it’s a different high,
it’s a different feeling and I’m not
really sure what the difference is
between the heroin and the fentanyl.
I don’t know.
But, it’s what my body
craves and without it,
I’ll be just as sick as I am now.
I feel like it’s a waste of my life.
I mean a got a lot of people
in my corner who care about me,
a lot of people in my family
that love and care about me,
and want to see me do well,
and I’m not doing nothing
except sticking a needle in my arm,
every day, all day long.
Waste.
Waste of time, waste
of energy, waste of money.
It’s a fucking waste of everything.
It’s just a waste.
In need of a place to sleep
Alex heads to an abandoned house
that he and other addicts
sometimes use to crash.
What’s going on?
Not too much.
It makes me do things
that I normally wouldn’t do.
Lie.
Manipulate.
I’ve never been like the person
to lie and tell stories,
and to, you know,
try and get over it,
I was not like that.
But my addiction has
definitely made me that way.
Makes me feel alone,
it makes me feel vulnerable.
Makes me feel scared.
Makes me feel unsure
of what my purpose here is.
Manchester Fire And Emergency.
Request for an ambulance
at Manchester.
It’s the Shell gas station,
the patient is in the bathroom.
She has overdosed.
It’s going to be for
a female in her 20s.
My caller states he went into clean,
found her overdosing in the bathtub,
she was not conscious.
The caller states
that she has overdosed,
the patient’s going to be just
outside the church on the side.
Where are the people located?
She said they’re in
the middle of the street.
Two people are overdosing.
For a male in his 50s found
unconscious, not breathing.
There’s a needle next to him.
35-year-old male.
He is not conscious, not breathing.
Overdose.
I don’t know what to do!
Stop talking for a moment.
I don’t know what’s happening
to this generation,
you know, I look out my window,
you know, I’m like looking
at Ground Zero,
for the United States,
for fentanyl,
you know, and fentanyl dust.
It’s like what the heck am I seeing?
Truck 1811 – response.
Outside of 340, 340 Hanover Street
for a man down, possible overdose.
SIREN WAILS
We went from 20 overdoses to 80
overdoses in a matter of a month
and we were like,
“What the hell happened here?”
Why did it hit us?
Because of synthetic
heroin, it was fentanyl.
We don’t have a heroin problem,
we have a fentanyl problem
and we really realised that
back 2015, when we got hit so hard,
but we’ve been chasing it
ever since, to try and get
ahead of this and it’s really tough
to get ahead of something like this.
I talk to these guys all the time,
when I’m down here,
I’m pretty invested in my personnel
and I worry about what they do.
I go to a lot of the calls that they
go on because I just want to see
how they’re,
you know, handling things,
and make sure that…
I know there’s going to be some
compassion fatigue, it’s really…
It’s really difficult to see this.
I mean,
when I grew up in the Fire Service
we never saw this much,
you know, you know, death.
He’s not unconscious,
but you don’t really know,
you know, when he used, you know,
what’s going to happen.
They don’t want to hit him
with Narcan right away,
because if they do,
he’s going to be sick.
Right now they want to get
him out as, you know,
as slowly as possible, so what
they’re going to probably do,
is we’ll get him in the back of the
ambulance, get him to the hospital,
and get a monitor on him
and probably give him some Narcan
via an IV and so on.
All right, Dale, we probably
should go to the hospital,
get you checked out there.
Oh, I don’t think I need to go
to on the side hospital.
Well, yeah, you’re not…
All right. Give me your hand there,
we’ll take you, we’re going to walk
you back here.
Tell us what happened.
This gentleman was seen
on the sidewalk, unconscious,
with very limited breathing,
and had just done heroin
as he reported.
He was actually one of the honest
ones where he admitted to doing it.
Sometimes they come up
and they don’t admit to doing
the heroin and, or fentanyl.
And this time he did and we know
we’ve got to take him
to the hospital to have him checked
out and have him not lay
down somewhere elsewhere no-one
can find him and him passing away.
You go on calls like that,
in this neighbourhood,
and it’s a lot,
it’s the aftermath of –
you ask them where the needle is.
“I threw it in the street.”
OK, well now, where is it?
Who plays with it?
Is it an adult that picks
it up and throws it away?
Or is it a child that plays with it?
Then it turns into he said he did
half fentanyl, half heroin,
mixed in a bag. So the little baggy
that he has, where’s that?
He probably threw it on the ground.
A kid plays with that,
sees it, is it candy, whatever?
It’s that whole,
from my personal stand point,
it’s frustrating,
because you see it all the time,
every single day.
Since this crisis has hit,
we go out on these types of calls
over and over and over
again, all day long.
So 10% of the overdoses that we get
called to for an opiate,
that results in death.
So how did you make it over here?
You just walked over? Yeah.
Yeah, have you
ever overdosed before?
Doug, can you get up?
OK.
You gotta.
You can’t stay here!
Dude, we were talking
and having like a full conversation
and you just fell asleep
like, mid conversation.
Douglas has obviously
overdosed on opiates.
He admitted to using
fentanyl, so, yeah.
This guy needs help.
He needs somewhere to go,
and you know, and like I told him,
it’s like there’s help
for him, you know.
It’s, but it’s getting
to these people, and you know,
hey, I don’t judge you people
but you don’t know where they came
from, you don’t know what kind
of trauma was in their lives,
so, he needs help
more than anything else.
He’s sick. So…
With no increase in
budgets or personnel,
Manchester Fire Department now
spends 70% of their time responding
to drug-related calls.
Layla. Layla.
Layla. Wake up.
We got here, the police
officer came by the park,
was doing some surveillance.
Gentleman here saw her passed out,
called 911, unresponsive,
we came here.
She showed
all the symptoms of an overdose.
Right away we administered Narcan,
started breathing for her.
He’s going to give her another
Narcan,
so this will be the
second one that we put in,
She didn’t
respond to the first one.
So we’re going to put
in a second one.
If this one doesn’t work,
they’ll probably do an IV
and then put it in that way.
Narcan is used to block the effects
of opioids in an attempt
to reverse overdoses.
Now they’re going to put
the Narcan in by IV,
because the two nasals got her
to come round a little bit
but not fully, so…
There we go. Hi, Layla!
Careful, Layla.
It’s just unfortunate, you know,
daytime at a park, you know.
You know, you think you’re going
for a walk in the park,
you know,
the next thing is an overdose, so…
If this crisis right now don’t worry
you then there’s something wrong,
you’re not paying attention to it.
Every day,
people are out on the highway,
driving down that I-95 quarter,
to the source city or source cities
where these organisations
have these drugs readily available.
It’s all day long,
it’s Monday through Friday,
and on the weekends
and it’s night-time, daytime
and during business hours,
the product is always available.
But look, New Hampshire,
as of this morning hasn’t
had a heroin overdose death.
It’s not heroin
that’s killing our people,
it’s fentanyl,
and it’s changed the game.
It’s cheap, it’s easy
to manufacture for these cartels.
They don’t want to worry
about opium any more,
they don’t have to
worry about the plant, sun,
water, how they’re going
to grow these, growing cycles,
they don’t worry about any of that,
they can mass-produce this stuff
in the same labs
that they have set up,
that they’ve used, you know,
when they were making
methamphetamine or any other drug,
and they’re able to manufacture
it faster, and cheaper.
Working with local law enforcement,
the DEA has identified dealers
operating from a park.
He’s getting into a blue BMW.
He picked up. He’s looking around.
The blue BMW is leaving.
So you can see how this works,
we’re set up in the park,
we’re sort of
at a position where we can see
what’s happening,
we see customers coming in.
He’s coming to the park.
They’re getting served,
they’re getting back in the car.
Our guys are calling it out
to the surveillance units,
the surveillance units are taking
them away to a place where,
whether it’s in New Hampshire
or Massachusetts,
we can safely
make these traffic stops.
Straight ahead.
OK, we have another
New Hampshire customer, guys.
Another
New Hampshire customer arriving.
A vehicle possibly going on 95.
We’re up here in New Hampshire now,
we just stopped a car that we saw
it pick up from that same park,
and this woman too had the stuff
stuffed inside of her body cavity.
She’s pulling
it out for the troopers.
Here’s the evidence here
that they just removed
from this female here
on this traffic stop.
Again, fentanyl,
driving up into New Hampshire
to pollute our communities.
The cartels will never change
what they’re doing.
They have found an avenue
now with fentanyl,
where they can make so much money.
The other thing is we’re seeing,
and this really frightens me is,
the dealers are now mixing
fentanyl with everything.
We’re seeing an increase
of fentanyl mixed with cocaine,
Fentanyl mixed with methamphetamine,
and if you think about it,
it doesn’t even make sense,
because really they do
opposite things in the body
and in the brain, but to the dealer
they almost look at this
fentanyl now as a magic dust
that’s just a money maker.
They think if I just put
a little bit of this in there
I’ll be able to spread that product
further and make more money.
So they’re trying to figure out
how to get that recipe to the right
point, where they can
still addict everybody,
but have them come back
as much as they can,
and that’s really
what’s happened here.
They’ve killed more people
than war has.
I like the person I am today.
I used to hate myself.
When we met Steven,
I didn’t know him previously,
he didn’t want to hear
anything about recovery.
He didn’t want nothing
to do with the conversation,
even though he was kind
and sweet and respectful.
I knew he just wanted to get up
and go get high that day.
He had it written all over his face.
I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen that scene, like,
and it disgusts me how I looked.
Couldn’t even keep my eyes open.
I couldn’t form a sentence.
Slurring, and like,
I believe I was very close
to overdosing that day.
Runs my life.
I don’t need it
but I feel like I do.
Never could get enough of it.
And it just…
It kind of just fed itself,
it just took everything from me,
and I, and I gave it, I gave
it everything I had, willingly.
It kinda took control.
I’m not the same person,
you know what I mean?
I’m not that person.
I believe drugs, heroin especially,
completely changes who you are.
It will make you do things
that you never thought you’d do.
Make you into somebody
that you’re not, you know.
Steve had hit rock-bottom
and just accepted an offer
from Jodi to leave Pennsylvania
for the first time in his life,
and fly to Florida for treatment.
Hi, Jodi.
Hi, Steven, how are you, dear?
How you doing? I’m good.
I’m so glad you made it.
How was your trip?
Good?
OK. Feeling OK? Yeah, sure.
I wasn’t…
But I know it’s not too late,
that can still make it right.
What I told them.
After three months in rehab,
Steve left Florida clean
and in search of a new life.
One without the temptations
of America’s opioid crisis.
Steve and I have kept
in touch here and there,
throughout the course
of the last two years.
I know that he’s still clean
and sober, I know that he’s living
in Kentucky,
you know, I haven’t spoken to him
on the phone.
SHE KNOCKS ON DOOR
We just text every couple of months.
Oh, my God!
Hi. Oh, how did I know he had
some tricks up his sleeve.
Hello.
Oh, hi, how are you doing?
I’m good. How are you?
I’m good!
Oh, my God,
look how healthy you look, boy!
You look amazing. Yeah?
Uh-huh.
I’m glad to see you.
I’m glad to see you.
Oh, that’s awesome,
that’s such a surprise.
Come check out the house.
All right. Sounds great.
So you left Florida,
went back to Pittsburgh,
the Pittsburgh area. Yeah.
And wasn’t going to work or…
I had an opportunity to move here,
and I kind of jumped on it,
you know what I mean,
for the first time in my life
I was able to just pick up and move.
Before, I was so afraid to leave.
You were afraid to leave
what, afraid to leave?
I was afraid to leave the area
I was in because I didn’t know
where to get the next one,
cos I wouldn’t know where to get it
if I left. Right, it was the…
Right, so the drugs kept you captive
in so many different ways.
Yeah, yeah, it kept me there,
in the same area.
Now, I had the freedom
that I didn’t have to stay
around the area,
because I didn’t know
where I was
going to get the next one.
Does it exist here?
Like, it technically
exists everywhere?
It exists. It’s everywhere.
Right, so,
I mean, it’s happening here?
It definitely is here,
I’ve seen it a little bit.
I know an addict when I see one.
It’s definitely here.
You have to go looking for it.
If I wanted to find it.
It doesn’t come knocking
at your door or drop you off
like a pizza, right. Yeah, like back
home, it was right in your face…
Sure. ..and it came and found you.
I really like it here.
It’s really nice.
I feel better than I’ve ever felt.
I don’t remember a time where
I felt this good about myself.
Two years ago, I couldn’t even
dream that I could be here,
doing what I’m doing,
and as happy as I am.
If there’s one individual – Steven –
who I know that we had a hand
in saving his life, it’s worth it.
Nobody’s life’s better
than someone else.
We all deserve a chance.
At success.
And to live.
Just some of us have lost our way.
It’s not a poor people thing
any more, it’s not an inner city
ghetto drug any more,
it’s everywhere and it’s killing
people left and right,
every single day.
Something’s got to be done.
It’s got to change.
What’s it going to take?
You know what I mean?
Someone can see the power like that,
losing their child too it.
Before they open their eyes to it?
Like, something’s got to give now,
or there, eventually, there’s
going to be no coming back from it.
I just hope we haven’t
reached that point already.
My story doesn’t end here.
This isn’t the last time
anyone’s going to see me.
Just I…
I’m not going to die from this.
Like, I’m not.
Not going to die from this.
I want my daughter to be proud
of me, and I want my…
I want people to be proud of me.
You know, I want
to be proud of myself.
If I was your mother right know,
what would you want to say to her?
Oh, mom, I’m sorry.
I know, I mean, I can’t tell her,
“Hey, wait, couple more years I’ll
get better,” I can’t tell her that,
I don’t know.
That’s what sucks about this.
Tomorrow’s not a promise.
For her or for me.
Oh, my greatest hope
is that I can beat the addiction.
That I can just go
back to being Alex,
that I can be a good son,
good brother, good father,
that’s like my greatest hope.
That I can beat this,
walk away from it,
and just not look back.
We lost contact with Alex,
so went back to search for him.
But he was nowhere to be found.
# Gave proof through the night
# That our flag was still there
# O say does that
star-spangled banner yet wave
# O’er the land of the free
# And the home of the…
# ..brave? #

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