Imagine overdosing in public, prompting police officers to administer Narcan – the powerful opiate antidote – to save your life.
Now imagine this entire experience being captured on video and streamed across the Internet. Strangers witnessing your most vulnerable moments and judging your whole life based on just a few humiliating seconds. While you’re undoubtedly grateful your life was saved, being Narcan famous isn’t something you signed up for.
When Your Life Becomes Reality TV
A very similar scenario happened to a young man in Philadelphia. He was videotaped shooting up and falling off his seat while riding a crowded Philadelphia bus. The footage then cut to a police officer administering Narcan (generic name naloxone) to reverse the effects of his heroin overdose.
After he regained consciousness, the young man was taken to jail for heroin possession. The police later tweeted the humiliating video of the bus scene, which soon went viral.
“Guy Shoots Heroin on Bus, Keels Over (DISTURBING VIDEO),” broadcasted the Huffington Post. Other media outlets soon followed suit; the young man forever being labeled as the “guy who OD’d on a city bus.”
The man’s attorney, Eugene Bonner, told The Daily Beast his client was shocked after seeing his own image on television.
“He asked me how they could just use his video like that, without his permission, but since it happened in public they can do what they want with it,” Bonner said. “They got him through the overdose and now they’re prosecuting him when what he really needs is help.”
The police department defended its decision to release the video, stating “there was a lot of value in the public seeing the extent people will go to in order to satisfy their drug habit.”
It’s Time to Change the Channel
Treatment professionals see the situation differently. They feel the video clips are exploitative. “It’s not for the intention of getting them help or more resources for the future,” said one opponent. “It’s an attention-grabbing way to get headlines without getting to the whole story.”
For many dealing with substance abuse, the “whole story” includes a traumatic past, multiple stints in jail, and numerous attempts to quit. It involves being treated as second-class citizens, thanks to long-held stereotypes that portray chemical dependency as a moral failing, rather than an incurable disease.
For an actual solution to be reached in our nation’s drug crisis, we need to eliminate the shame and cue the compassion. Video clips that don’t paint the entire picture do nothing except provoke the public and take away from the real issue: those struggling with substance abuse need our help, not our judgment.
Additional Reading: Virginia Wants Treatment – Not Jail – For Its Addicted Citizens
Image Source: iStock