The PBS documentary Frontline: Chasing Heroin which first aired a few weeks ago, is not without it’s share of flaws, most of which are outlined here. However, having just watched it recently I’d still recommend it to anyone with an interest in harm reduction, the Drug War, mass incarceration and related topics. It covers different aspects of the latest heroin epidemic with a focus on the Seattle area and initial harm reduction measures that local legislators and community groups have taken to deal with it. It’s important for more people to see personal stories of how heroin addiction has impacted families and the community. Unfortunately there was a glaring lack of coverage of how the drug war shaped the current situation (which would probably require more than the two hour runtime).
Also, I didn’t always agree with the opinions expressed in some of the interviews. For example, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse characterized addiction as having primarily genetic origins while downplaying emotional, environmental and socio-economic considerations. Former Attorney General Eric Holder spoke eloquently in support of harm reduction, yet we shouldn’t forget his defense of certain aspects of the drug war such as the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious which resulted in bringing more weapons to drug cartels. While much more work needs to be done, it’s heartening to see some legislators on a national level are starting to take notice of positive harm reduction outcomes outlined in the documentary and are finally questioning the obviously failed War on (some) Drugs and (some) drug offenders.
The full documentary can be viewed here (supplemented with a few relevant articles):