In his new documentary, An American Epidemic, filmmaker Michael De Leon emphasizes a couple of alarming facts about drug use in America. The use of heroin and prescription drugs is on the rise in what he calls “epidemic” proportions, and it crosses all demographics. After traveling 40 states to hear the stories of drug addicts across the nation, he emphasizes in his film what recent statistical evidence is revealing:
- The number of heroin users in the U.S. almost doubled from 370,000 in 2007 to 680,000 in 2013. The number continues to rise.
- In the last decade, prescriptions for opioid painkillers have increased nearly 300 percent.
- While most heroin users through the ‘80s and ‘90s were reported to be black, poor, and male, today more than half are women; users come from all socio-economic groups, including upper and middle class; and 90% of new users are white.
- It is estimated that about 45 people a day, more than 16,600 annually, die from opioid overdose. For every death, emergency rooms take in about 30 more for treatment.
- Though the age for the first use of heroin has crept up slightly, it is still mainly a drug for the young, a fact DeLeon’s film emphasizes.
After spending 12 years in prison and two years in a halfway house, DeLeon became a drug counselor in Camden, N.J. When 23 of the kids in his rehab facility died within a 16-day period – three of him his own clients — he took the tragedy on the road, telling the story to anyone who would listen. Their stories became his Kids Are Dying documentary, which focused on shocking facts surrounding heroin and prescription drug use in New Jersey. He expanded the project at the suggestion of a national cable channel, who said that in order to broadcast the documentary, the film would need wider appeal.
Funding a national road trip on his own, DeLeon was shocked to find the extent of heroin and prescription drug use in America, and his film is a passionate call to action, focusing on prevention, advocacy and better insurance coverage for those afflicted with drug addiction. The film is currently available for private screenings and can be purchased at the movie’s website. Broadcast on a network channel is pending.