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Virginia journalist sheds light on opioid epidemic in Hulu series: 'It's a crisis'

Congress Synthetic Opioids
Posted at 11:51 PM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 23:51:11-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- In a new Hulu series, filmed in Richmond, a Virginia journalist aimed to shed light on the opioid epidemic ravaging the country through the eyes of Virginians.

"It's a crisis, that has turned into a catastrophe," said Beth Macy, Author of the book behind a new Hulu series premiering Wednesday called 'Dopesick.'

Macy, who wrote for the Roanoke Times for about 25 years, said the series tells the span of the opioid crisis by going deep in three different Virginia communities.

"A lot of what keeps us from turning the crisis back is stigma. It's a stigma in our families. It's a stigma in our bureaucracies. It's a stigma in our laws," said Macy. "This whole notion that somebody who suffers from addiction has to go in jail, rather than if we offered them treatment before they committed the crime, you know, we could be truly rehabilitating them."

Amid the pandemic, 96,000 Americans died from overdoses in a 12-month period according to the CDC, Macy writes about the pharmaceutical companies behind mass addictions to Oxycontin in the early 2000s, which she said spiraled to heroin.

"And then fentanyl came in as a cut into the heroin and that's what most people are dying from now," she said

That reality was being felt in Richmond.

"Right now, people are not anticipating how strong the opioids they get are because there’s so much fentanyl mixed in with whatever you buy on the street," said Chris Kogut, Psychiatrist Interim Director of Behavioral Health at the Daily Planet Health Services. "It’s just eating people up, it’s just tearing through the community of people who use opioids."

Kogut helped addicts find recovery with medication-assisted therapy. He said he often prescribed Suboxone to patients, which is a drug that can reduce cravings and prevent an overdose.

"We’ve seen the rates of overdoses just go through the roof during the pandemic, the numbers have been grim," said Kogut.

He added that lockdowns and social distancing meant group treatments had to move virtual, one factor he believed contributed to the problem.

"It was very isolating and people who were in recovery and used to attending recovery meetings in person, that went away," Kogut said.

But within the last couple of months, he said in-person group sessions had opened back up for those who were vaccinated.

"When people come into treatment, you really change their lives. And helping people to make those changes is very rewarding," Kogut said.

Daily Planet officers prioritize services for patients who are homeless or living in public housing. They also have grants to see patients with HIV.

Those interested can learn more about their services here.