Steel Town Down

Steel Town Down

2018, Drugs  -   21 Comments
Ratings: 7.62/10 from 34 users.

The VICE News production Steel Town Down travels to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where the demise of a once thriving steel industry has given birth to widespread despair, limited economic opportunity, and a raging opioid epidemic.

Victor Gareau still works at the steel plant. He's one of the lucky few. The industry once employed over 13,000 locals, but modernization and cost cutting measures hung most of that work force out to dry. His 19-year old son Josh is an addict. He continues to use even though he's personally known a number of people just like him who have perished under the weight of their addictions.

Josh is not an anomaly. Over 4000 overdose deaths were reported in Canada last year alone, and the opioid crisis has hit this small town especially hard. Poverty is a major contributing factor, but limited treatment resources have also done much to exacerbate the epidemic. The local hospital employs only one addiction specialist, and it's not unusual for her to treat eight overdose cases in a single night.

The most popular drugs like Fentanyl are synthetic. Users rarely know precisely what they're injecting into their bodies, and the mystery concoction too often proves fatal.

An epidemic like this one does much to shape the character of a community and vice versa. You can feel it in the empty shops, the shuttered housing and the desperation carved into the faces of its residents.

"This town is all about drugs," admits one addict. The opioid crisis has even taken a front seat in the lives of those who don't abuse drugs. The filmmakers speak to concerned parents who struggle to keep their children alive, medical professionals who experience a steady stream of senseless drug-related deaths, the rehabilitation counselors who work to inspire those who wish to escape from the claws of their addiction, and a paramedic whose frequent overdose calls have become routine.

Sault Ste. Marie is indicative of many towns all across North America and beyond. Steel Town Down captures the trauma felt on all sides of the issue, and accurately portrays addiction as a devastating disease that requires patience, empathy, and adequate resources to overcome.

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3 years ago


urban dweller
5 years ago

Wow! Sympathy and caring for people who are dealing with socio-economic issues resulting in drug use and drug over-doses. Imagine people suffering through something like this for 200 years! Where people have turned a blind-eye. Where there are no sympathetic documentaries but continue to demean and criticize them. Offering little help. Try being a African-american who has not even had a chance to improve and have even been blocked from opportunity. Now the shoe is on the other-foot. And news reports all point to the economy, pharmacies, drug companies, etc. for their problems. Here and in the news they don't demonize the addicts. So stop demonizing others. If you recognize that not having a good paying job debilitates a person, a community then stop demonizing others. Unfortunately, established people have the same answers, "Let them die."
Josh, wants to just "not be present"...when you're African-American your color demonizes you - automatically - always making you seem as a scourge on society. If it weren't for African-Americans creating wealth from cotton and tobacco in the south (but getting NO benefits from it) but it allowed America to reap the rewards of the industrial revolution. Just as these men and women helped build the industrial revolution and now are no longer "necessary" even though they helped to create an industry that was built to eventually eliminate them. And now young men and women who are in the tech industry will lose their jobs to computers. And all they will be able to hope for is a "Universal Income" and those in power are even fighting over that. It's enough to stay alive. All of these "big" industries continue to use the bulk of the population to grow their wealth, grow their power and influence and REFUSE to share in the profits, which would be impossible without the great majority of the citizens. Not until citizens stand and unite and stop fighting over color, race, and culture the majority will continue to be used and mis-used and stories like these will continue to be made.

5 years ago

Thomas is part of the problem.

5 years ago

The left can't create jobs so they focus on making these whiny documentaries.

Terry Reardon - Smith
5 years ago

I suggest we provide effective treatment services to those addicted and charge those parasites of society who feed off the addicted. The charge must be 2nd degree murder or manslaughter.

5 years ago

Josh has parents who raised a self centered little destroyer of relationships, they are enablers that apparently never disciplined this brat at all!! Boy seems to have excuses for all his inadequate behavior. He'll never be a productive member of any society so, yeah, he has the right idea of suicide. GOOD LUCK JOSH!! LOSER.

Mohd Abbas
5 years ago

Quite sad to watch people die doing drugs. Religion and God can make you a better person. Without God our lives have no meaning.

Carol Crabtree
5 years ago

cdnski12 - that's a pretty disturbing attitude you have, try some compassion, you need it.

mark gaboury
5 years ago

Vice is a leftist propaganda outfit. The health care worker has the drug addict for her best friend. So she doesn't believe in tough love, just more 'support.' She's an enabler. Getting tattoos from the creepy druggist! She's an insecure fat woman looking for a man...any man who will have her. Fine woman to be put in charge of anything! These lazy drug-addicted scoundrels have marginalized themselves. They plug up our health care system and get in the way of people who need legitimate help. Kick that Joshua to the curb. These losers feel neglected because they're infants who don't contribute anything to society.

5 years ago

You have to feel some sympathy with famlies that have members who are suffering from addiction, and it doesn't matter what kind -- drugs, which range from beer to opiods; or sexual deviation; obesity or annorxia, or whatever.
In the case of the 20 year old, they didn't once mention his problem, which from all appearances, is that he is gay. His parents didn't mention it, he didn't mention it, as if it was something that wasn't on the table, although to people who recognize it, it was very obvious. This is a problem with youngsters as they go through a time in their life in which many are really trying to find themselves, and resort to drugs as a means of doing so, and then become very easily addicted. I was appalled that both parents smoked, and didn't seem to consider this as part of their boy's problems. If I were a parent I would make damn sure that my son or daughter would have access for something meaningful for them to do, to encourage them to continue schooling, to encourage them to take up some sort of sport, etc.
Insofar as the older addict, I'm inclined to agree that getting them off drugs is useless and people like that really don't deserve much sympathy. They need to get into a facility in the arctic somewhere where no drugs are available and anyone (jailor) who supplies them with any would be hung.
I'm a senior who helped raise 3 drug free children who have raised 2 drug free grandchildren.

5 years ago

How sad. Unfortunately addicts tend to believe, or at least say out load, that they cannot stop rather than that they have not yet found a way to stop using. I would agree stopping is not easy for a number of valid reasons as well as a number of contrived excuses but I know it is possible based on personal experience. I never used Fentanyl but I can witness re a vast spectrum of substances covering a 25 year span of time. Best to all.

5 years ago

The only good thing about Fentanyl, is that it eliminates the addicts in our society. Addicts are estimated to cost society $500,000 => $1,000,000 annually, so eliminating 1000 annually saves us nearly $1 Billion CAD.
People who inject unknown drugs into their veins don't deserve our sympathy. The parents and friends are enablers. Any 12 step program will tell you that almost immediately.

joe nobull
5 years ago

mother earth cant hear your concrete and steel cities