Still from video via Maryland Public Television/YouTube

A new documentary from Maryland Public Television follows three Marylanders suffering from opioid abuse disorders as they travel their arduous paths toward recovery.

Most should be familiar with the severity of the United States’ problem with opioid and heroin addiction. The Surgeon General says 78 people die around the country every day from opioid overdoses.

Maryland hasn’t been spared from the scourge of addiction. A January Gonzales poll found around two of every five Marylanders say the heroin epidemic has harmed someone they know within the last five years. The Baltimore City Health Department has said 25,000 people in Baltimore alone use opioids.

But statistics don’t paint the full picture of the life of a heroin or opioid addict. “Breaking Heroin’s Grip: Road to Recovery” attempts to do just that. The film, which aired on Maryland Public Television (channel 67 in Baltimore) on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m, takes a personal approach to documenting opioid abuse. Instead of focusing on the criminal and legal aspects of addiction, it aims to communicate the daily hardships faced by three Marylanders from different backgrounds who have struggled with the behavioral disease.

One of those three individuals is Lauren Fowler, a Calvert County resident now in her third year of recovery. “I tell everyone that, you know, I don’t need to know what it’s like to live in hell, because if you’re a drug addict off of any type of opiate, especially heroin, you know exactly what it’s like to live in hell every single day,” says Fowler in the film.

The documentary also follows Darlene Pope of Baltimore City (in recovery 25 years) and R.J. Farver of Hagerstown (two years). With input from their family members, friends, and counselors, “Breaking Heroin’s Grip” shares how each one’s life was transformed after they became slaves to the highly addictive, but easily obtainable substances, as well as the sacrifices they made to escape addiction.

“Breaking Heroin’s Grip” is powerful on its own, but what made its opening night particularly special was its broadcast reach. Maryland Public Television coordinated with more than 30 other TV and radio stations around Maryland, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware to air the documentary on Saturday night, a first for the Owings Mills-based network. Following the 40-minute film, MPT also hosted a 20-minute phone bank in which state behavioral health experts took calls from addicted individuals, family members, friends and others and advised them about addiction treatment and recovery options.

MPT spokesman Tom Williams said in an emailed statement that the network was “very pleased with the reach and impact” of the premiere. “We’ve also learned that Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene’s Behavioral Health Administrations crisis hotline was very busy during the broadcast and in the hours immediately following,” thanks to later airings on WUSA9 in Washington D.C. and WJZ-13 here in Baltimore, Williams said.

While the premiere has come and gone, the film is still available to watch at any time on MPT’s website and YouTube channel. If you’d like to watch it right here on Baltimore Fishbowl, the film is embedded below, courtesy of Maryland Public Television. Those who want to tune in by radio tonight can listen in at 9 p.m. on WTMD-FM 89.7

YouTube video

This story has been updated with comment from MPT and corrected to reflect Darlene Pope’s correct surname.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...

One reply on “MPT Premieres Powerful Documentary About Opioid Addiction”

  1. Stop the drug war with objective of shutting down the black market. The drug war has failed. The drug war is driving the problems, not fixing them. Decriminalization/legalization is necessary, it needs to be backed up with public health announcements explaining exactly why it is needed. Its not in any way condoning the abuse of addictors, it is done bc the alternative, the drug war, has made things infinitely worse on almost every level, to include making drugs abundantly available to any & all that wants them.
    We need to pull LE out of the drug biz – that will free up a lot of resources currently chasing their collective tails. When the laws create more harm and cause more damage than they prevent, its time to change the laws. The $1 TRILLION so-called war on drugs is a massive big government failure – on nearly every single level. Its way past time to put the cartels & black market drug dealers out of business. Mass incarceration has failed. We cant even keep drugs out of a contained & controlled environment like prison.
    We need the science of addiction causation to guide prevention, treatment, recovery & public policies. Otherwise, things will inexorably just continue to worsen & no progress will be made. Addiction causation research has continued to show that some people (suffering with addiction) have a “hypo-active endogenous opioid/reward system.” This is the (real) brain disease, making addiction a symptom, not a disease itself. One disease, one pathology. Policy must be made reflecting addiction(s) as the health issue that it is.
    The war on drugs is an apotheosis of the largest & longest war failure in history. It actually exposes our children to more harm & risk and does not protect them whatsoever. In all actuality, the war on drugs is nothing more than an international projection of a domestic psychosis. It is not the “great child protection act,” its actually the complete opposite. Let’s remember, opioids (drug) prohibition is a historical and cultural aberration, just 100 years old. We had fewer drug problems in my own grandparents’ time when opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine and cannabis could all still be bought legally over the counter. (Re)legalizing opioids would not be a “risky social experiment”, as some think. On the contrary, drugs prohibition was the reckless social experiment. And its a massive failure. Alcohol prohibition didn’t work, and opioid prohibition is failing even more miserably. The longer we’ve had drug prohibition laws in place, the worse have the social and health problems they cause gotten.
    The lesson is clear: Drug laws do not stop people from harming themselves, but they do cause addicts to commit crimes and harm others. We need a new approach that decriminalizes the disease. We must protect society from the collateral damage of addiction and stop waging war on ourselves. We need common sense harm reduction approaches desperately. MAT (medication assisted treatment) and HAT (heroin assisted treatment) must be available options. Of course, MJ should not be a sched drug at all.

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