Opioid abuse has become the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. The bloodline of this epidemic has spread to regions all across the country, but Interstate 95 serves as its main artery. Stretching from Florida to Maine, the Interstate is home base for drug traffickers, and it's where cameras follow the trail of death and devastation in the sobering documentary The Rise of Fentanyl.
Produced by The BBC, the film is a follow-up to another documentary which first aired two years ago. Revisiting the same locales, the filmmakers discover an environment that is many times more distressed and lethal than before.
In Baltimore - the heroin capital of the United States - overdoses are nearly 10 times higher than they were in 2013. Here, an addict named Anna was recently released from jail on a prostitution charge. She's determined not to use needles again, but her resolve is quickly diminishing as she walks familiar streets. Advocates do their best to feed and clothe people like Anna, but they know that many of the souls they attempt to nourish are destined for the morgue.
In Florida, an addiction recovery specialist struggles to keep pace with a worsening epidemic. One of her patients is a young mother who nearly succumbed to her addiction shortly after her baby was born.
A drug-addled neighborhood in Philadelphia has been declared a disaster zone. The filmmakers follow EMT workers as they work to revive junkies who have collapsed on the street. This kind of occurrence is sadly routine.
In Manchester, New Hampshire, detectives perform undercover surveillance, and demonstrate how the drugs are transported and distributed in the center of otherwise quaint and unassuming communities.
Some of these communities were gripped by heroin abuse decades ago, but fentanyl is a game changer. It's much more potent than heroin, cheaper to buy and easier to procure. People are dying at an alarming and unprecedented rate. "If you aren't troubled by this epidemic," says one public official, "then you aren't paying attention."
The Rise of Fentanyl is a crushingly sad look at the worst public health crisis in the history of America.