An all-too-commonly prescribed opioid for those suffering from severe chronic pain or undergoing a surgical procedure, fentanyl is now one of the most abused substances on the street. Many times more potent than heroin, it’s also significantly more dangerous. As the numbers of the dead continue to escalate, VICE News travels to Canada where they witness the horrors of fentanyl addiction from the inside.
Dopesick: Fentanyl’s Deadly Grip is a difficult and bleak viewing experience, but essential. We’re introduced to a host of addicts – some of them as young as 14 – whose lives have spiralled out of control. Many are homeless and hopeless. As the drug’s effects only last a brief period of time, they spend every waking minute in search of their next fix. In the wake of their addiction lie dashed dreams, ruined relationships and diminished potential.
Most of their supply comes from non-pharmaceutical pills imported from China. But regardless of their origin, their devastating effects are universal. We’re shown the extreme physical and mental toll of both the addiction and the inevitable withdrawal process. We see the lengths to which abusers go to score their next dose. Most heartbreakingly, we witness the glimmers of humanity and promise shine through in each of the film’s tortured subjects as they contend with a demon they can’t escape.
We’re also given entry into the community’s treatment centres and hear from the compassionate counsellors and medical personnel who try desperately to curb the rampant growth of this epidemic. Much like the addicts themselves, these brave professionals are working against seemingly insurmountable odds. Their facilities are often filled to capacity, and most of their patients will not succeed in their attempts to kick their deadly habit. Last year, three hundred people died from fentanyl abuse in Alberta alone. As shocking as this statistic may seem, it’s just a microcosm of a wide-sweeping disease which is currently infecting the most diverse and unexpected regions of the world.
A smashingly effective piece of investigative reporting, Dopesick: Fentanyl’s Deadly Grip delivers in its deeply human portrayal of a problem that won’t go away, and can no longer be dismissed.
Directed by: Shawney Cohen