This is great film, made by EMS for EMS, to help us understand addiction and the stories behind our patient’s lives. The 37 minute film tells the story of four addicts in their own words, including one who was once in EMS. Listening to these four tell their stories helps people understand how easy it is for a person to fall into the grip of opioids and how hard it is to get out. As I mentioned in another blog post, I recenly heard a mother describe her daughter’s descent into opioids, which ended in her death, as “an innocent entry and an impossible exit.”
I met two new young people this week who were ex-addicts struggling to reclaim their lives. One was a former army medic, who told me he became addicted in Afghanistan. His squad often found caches of heroin, hidden by villagers. It was hot there and they were always hydrating themselves with IVs. One day they added a few grains of heroin to the IV. Three days of this and he found himself coming down with a horrible flu. It took awhile for him to realize he was in opioid withdrawal. When he came home, he found himself in Hartford, a land where a bag of heroin is only $4. Two years of hell later, and scared by two fentanyl overdoses, he finally got on suboxone, which is working for him. Still he’s a homeless vet, and he has a long way to go to truly be back home.
The other young man got hooked on prescription pills after an injury. He followed the usual course, buying on the street when his prescription ran out, and switching to heroin because it was so cheap. The death of so many of his friends got him onto methadone, and that too, is working for him, although like the soldier, he is homeless and living in the woods. We talk for a long time, and I tell him how my views on addiction have changed over the years and how I now recognize it as a disease. “You should talk to my parents,” he says.
Watch the film. Educate yourself. Talk to people. There are a lot of lost souls out there who can use our help.