H is for…Heroin.
Heroin is a drug most often associated with the gritty back alleys of big cities. Throughout the past decade, there has been a surprising surge of heroin use amongst teenagers. Increasingly, heroin is showing up in suburban, affluent high-schools across the US. Often teens start with the misuse of prescription pain pills, such as Percocet or Oxycontin commonly found in the medicine cabinets of their homes. Typically they start by ingesting these pills orally and progress to snorting them crushed. Many are ultimately turning to IV heroin use as a more affordable and often easier to obtain source of the opiate.
Harm reduction programs (such as needle exchange) aim to reduce the negative consequences of drug use, by reducing the harm self-inflicted by the user through unsafe practices and the harm inflicted upon society. Needle exchange programs have proven to be efficacious in reducing rates of infectious transmission of HIV and Hep C amongst IV drug abusers. One such program was running successfully for years in Pittsburgh's Hill District, a previously vibrant and cultural center of the city, where close to half of the population now live in poverty and drug use is rampant. Due to significant controversy and political pressures, the needle exchange program here was ended by the Pittsburgh Police Department with popular political backing for touting the unproven notion that providing free needles promotes drug trafficking.
This film aims to portray the unexpected link between secondary prevention programs targeting heroin users in economically underserved areas, such as the needle exchange in the Hill District, and the mental health issue of substance abuse amongst affluent suburban teens who have turned to opiate use, such as in the Fox Chapel neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Overarching political opinions of elected officials and legal enforcement often reflect the prevailing sentiments of the more affluent suburbs who appear to be in denial of the real drug use existing in their own neighborhoods and homes.