Heroin has come out from the shadows. Americans’ dependence on and abuse of prescription opiates set the stage for the devastating heroin epidemic that has hit the nation. HEROIN: CAPE COD, USA, produced by Steven Okazaki for HBO Documentary Films, follows the harrowing highs and lows of eight young heroin addicts in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
80% of heroin addicts start with opioid pain medications — Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycodone — prescribed by a doctor, supplied by a dealer, or stolen from the family medicine cabinet. In the film, 21 year-old Jessica describes recovering from a car accident and going home with a prescription for Percocets. Cassie was prescribed Vicodin for a high school soccer injury. Daniel took Oxycontin for back pain. Soon, all were addicted and wanting more. Arianna says she found “the love of my life” when she discovered opiates. Ryan describes it as “a roller coaster ride.” And Benjamin says it made him feel “wicked cool.”
With the legalization of marijuana pushing profits down and demand for opiates going up, Mexican drug cartels have increased opium production to supply cheap and potent heroin to new markets. In communities like Cape Cod, minors can access heroin easier than alcohol. Several of the film’s subjects started using opiates at age 13 or 14 — vulnerable, looking for a new high and a way to block out painful emotions.
“Eight kids on his soccer team ended up addicted to heroin,” says a mother from a parents' support group. “Good kids from good families.” Intimate and unvarnished, the film explores the young addicts’ perilous existence and their parents’ anguish.
“It’s hard to find anyone in New England who hasn’t been touched by the heroin epidemic,” says filmmaker Steven Okazaki. “Nearly everyone has someone they care about who’s struggling with addiction or died from an overdose.”
In ten years, opiate-related deaths in the U.S. have quadrupled.
HEROIN: CAPE COD, USA follows the downward spirals of eight young addicts — hustling to get money; running up and down the Cape; shooting up in the bedroom as mom watches TV downstairs; in and out of detox; trying to have relationships; the daily repetition of the same vicious cycle.
Marissa, the outspoken 23 year-old muse of the film who helps guide us through the rituals and calamities of the addict's life, wants respect and understanding. She reminds us that, “I could be your daughter.”
Produced for HBO DOCUMENTARY FILMS
2015 / Documentary / 75 Minutes