The opioid epidemic has many victims, including the abusers, the friends and family members who love them, and the fabric of the communities in which they live. It has also created a generation of orphaned or severely neglected children. The grim and heartbreaking documentary Heroin's Children tells their story.
Set in Chillicothe, Ohio, a community that has been decimated by heroin addiction and overdose deaths, the film introduces us to several figures who struggle on the front lines of the crisis.
A young mother of two recalls her harrowing existence as a heroin user. She missed many of her children's milestones as they were growing up, and she regrets that her little boy witnessed her in the death throes of an overdose. After that experience, she got herself clean and continues to rebuild her life. She's one of the rare and lucky ones.
Another interview subject realized both of her parents were hooked on opioids as she entered the sixth grade. Narcotics abuse eventually killed her father, and led her mother to prison. She, like many other children of drug abusers, was sent to live in foster care before settling into her grandparent's home.
The film profiles one of these grandparents, an elderly woman in a one-bedroom house who has assumed custody of her daughter's four small children. She is ill equipped to properly care for the large brood, and she's afraid that her own ailing health will compromise her ability to see them through adulthood.
At a treatment and counseling facility, a group of pregnant women share their own horror stories of addiction, and the fears and feelings of remorse they carry for their unborn babies. These children will likely be born with the quivering physical effects of their bad choices. In interviewing these haunted women, the filmmakers attempt to understand the moment when the pull of addiction becomes more important than the welfare of their children.
"Heroin is the devil incarnate," explains one of the film's participants. Whether or not society finds an effective means of defeating this devil, its insidious impact will remain with us for many decades to come. Heroin's Children is a sobering reminder of this.