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Hope and Healing: Exploring ‘Heroin(e)’ – A Netflix Documentary

by Lexy Campbell

Heroin(e) is a 2013 Netflix documentary that investigates the opioid crisis in Huntington, West Virginia, which has been called the overdose capital of the United States. The documentary explores the severity of the opioid epidemic by following three women: a fire chief, a judge, and a missionary. The judge, Patricia Keller, runs the Cabell County Drug Court. She gives tough love to those going through the drug court program by holding each convicted drug abuser accountable for all actions, emphasizing honesty, and celebrating success for those who graduate. Jane Rader, the fire chief, is a first responder who responds to opioid overdoses. Finally, Necia Freeman, a missionary, supports sex workers seeking drug money. Through sincere relationships, Freeman is able to help these women find safe housing, rehab, and hope. 

Each heroic woman exhibits kindness, honesty, and tough love, acting from the belief that those suffering from drug addiction should be treated like people, not unsupportable addicts. Each woman works within a different sector of social services, first response, legal, and spiritual, representing that no one sector can solve the opioid epidemic. Instead, it makes clear that the epidemic is a complex, systemic issue that requires assistance from all sectors, from healthcare workers to lawyers and faith leaders, to save lives.

Heroin(e) was directed by Elaine Sheldon and produced by Elaine Sheldon and her husband, Kerrin Sheldon. It was released in 2017, was nominated for an Academy Award, and won the 2018 Emmy for Outstanding Short Documentary. Since it was released, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, opioid-involved overdose deaths have risen from 47,600 in 2017 to 80,411 in 2021.

To learn and watch the powerful story of a community experiencing the worst effects of the opioid epidemic and everyday heroines, watch the documentary Heroin(e) streaming on Netflix.