Methamphetamine documentary director highlights the reasons behind addiction

Produced by: 
KBOO
Air date: 
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 5:45pm

 

Canadian paramedic and filmmaker Rodney Bodner is the producer and director of a recently released documentary entitled “Methamphetamine: Community Under Siege.”

Bodner spoke with Melissa Hood about the goals of the film.

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Audio Transcript: Methamphetamine documentary director highlights the reasons behind addiction

Rodney Bodner  0:00  
The film is regarding methamphetamine users, and what their story is and how they came to using the drug and their challenges on becoming drug free from methamphetamines and what's working for them and what doesn't, as well as interviewing and walking with frontline workers, who are helping clean the city up of discarded needles or other drug paraphernalia that's been used with Meth, other organizations that help with detox and long term treatment facilities. The goal of the documentary was not to demonize anybody, show that there's a human side to the methamphetamine crisis and tell the stories basically.

Melissa Hood  0:42  
How are you hoping that this use of personification gets through to people?

Rodney Bodner  0:48  
What we did was a little bit unique. Instead of looking at it an angle of you know, there's drug users that need to be arrested and put in jail, or people that might be asking for money or whatnot in the street, so it'll just use it for drugs etc. We didn't we didn't look at our film from that angle, we're looking at more from an educational perspective. And the original goal of the film was to have it played in every high school in our province. And we have a commitment, after being screened from our Manitoba School Board Association, to have this film played in every high school in our province. And what we did with the film is we broke it up into four chapters, keeping in mind that school classes, or periods, only go so long. So gave an opportunity for teachers to show a chapter during a period where they could stop the film after a chapter and have an open discussion with students or they could skip a chapter and pick one in specific specifically to discuss with the students. And we actually had the screening with the high school class a couple months ago. And at first I thought, my background being a paramedic, that you'd be asking questions about that and about methamphetimines. But the conversation turned to more, well, why is government not solving this problem? And what is it that we can do as kids to help out? Or what can we do when we're older to help out? So after that conversation, I thought, well, maybe there would be a use for this beyond high school. And we movied it into a screening at a local university. And what we found was the faculty, along with some of the students saw it as an opportunity to change their way of thinking on what they should do when it comes to social services, or nursing or psychiatry. So we've had some some great success in that area.

Melissa Hood  2:40  
I noticed in the documentary, some not so subtle prods at the government about kind of a lack of effort on their part. So was was that intentional? What were you hoping to convey with that and what are you maybe hoping that the government will do in the future? 

Rodney Bodner  2:59  
Well, I was actually surprised by the response from from government here. I told them about the documentary and what we were looking for. And nobody seemed to want to talk about the problem, in fact there was an email put out here by one of our health authorities, specifically not talk to me, to not engage in conversation. So that was am, that was quite surprising. One of the things that our government's done here, and I'm not sure about in Oregon but they've started a needle distribution campaign, where they feel if they hand out clean needles, it would help curb some of the communicable diseases that are being spread by needles. And during our filming, we walked with the Bear Clan Patrols and our inner city community that does walks nightly, and they found just tens of thousands of needles discarded in the street, which was quite shocking. So going forward with that when I first heard their campaign walking around, the only started out with a couple thousand here and there but to date for this year they've found 145,000 so far in the streets. So, but that was our government solution to the math problem was to hand out clean needles.

Melissa Hood  4:07  
So that's in Canada, and that's where this documentary takes place and where everything was filmed, correct?

Rodney Bodner  4:12  
Right. And for the rest of North America, just through interviews, we found that regardless of where meth is being used, the only thing that was really changing was the faces and the names and the places. And as in Oregon, for example, from your local law enforcement, they've seen that now that meth overdoses are now outnumbering heroin overdoses, which was kind of a surprise to them. Because right now, much attention is put on the opiate overdose in Oregon or United States in general, and meth is starting to make its comeback because it's become cheaper.

Melissa Hood  4:51  
Yeah, I've definitely heard a lot more about the opioid crisis more than meth and I'd never seen anything like this documentary before.

Rodney Bodner  4:59  
Well one of the main problems though, probably goes for a lot of addictions with illegal substances, is the answer seems to be arrest people, put them in jail. And the problem is once they're released from jail, they may have detoxed from whatever drug it might be in this case it meth. The problem is they're put back into the same situation and to why they started using the drug. So in this film, it speaks to the type of treatment that's needed specifically for meth, where the regular detox like we normally see with alcohol is an example where somebody might be detoxed for 12 days or a 28 day program, they're finding that with the meth once they're released, even though they might be now free of the drug, they're going back into a lifestyle that did not change for them. One of the disturbing stats in our documentary is for youth use of methamphetamines that 86% of individuals who are female And in Canada, I couldn't interview the youths and put them on the film. But just speaking to them off camera, one of the main reasons was, either peer pressure, or the females were subjected to sexual abuse in the home. So once you were off the drug, on detox and are put back in the home, their relapse rate is 95%. So one of the treatment offers that we have here is a two year program where somebody will detox off a drug. But the treatment doesn't to stop there like it would with any other drug that people could be placed into long term living facility up to two years where they would receive mental health help through counseling. They might have introduced some- some life skills on how to build resumes, changing who they're hanging out with, some more psychiatry, or just general medications that they may require for something else that's going on.

Melissa Hood  6:59  
Going back to- you mentioned earlier how pretty much the only thing that changed from place to place with this issue was the names and faces. And I know that you're working on getting this film shown in more places in the US as well. So are there any other ways that maybe Canada and the US compare on this? Do you know of the differences in how the two countries or even some states are working to handle this?

Rodney Bodner  7:29  
Absolutely. I guess the problem is, like provincial or state laws will differ from from state to state or province to province, based on the government of power at the time, and they need to come up with a better solution than just imprisoning people or just detoxing them short term. What we're finding with the methamphetamines and other addictions, whether it's alcohol, gambling, heroin, is people are turning to these drugs for a specific reason, and that reason needs to be addressed. And one of the three reasons that we found that seem be pretty consistent is people that are living in poverty, people that have mental health issues that haven't been addressed, or they're struggling with, and the other one was homelessness. And until those three main things are addressed, there will always be a heavy relapse rate at least with methamphetamine. And of course, addressing those issues is a very, very high price financially to pay. So it's coming up with some monies to deal with the problems. I know in Oregon right now for- for meth specifically, 68% of property crime, according to your law enforcement officials, is due to methamphetamine use, 88% of violent crimes is because of methamphetamine use, and the amount of money that it's costing everybody to deal just with that is pretty hefty.

So meth, basically it affects everybody. My father comes from the days of lock them all up until they get clean, simple, you know like, Dad, this still affects you because once they're released, they're going to go back to the drug. And he insists that meth doesn't affect them personally. So I explained to him that when you leave change in your car and it's broken into, it's not kids breaking in at three in the morning to get changed by slurpee or slushy breaking interchange for something as petty as a $2 that would afford to buy them a point of meth that would get them high for 12 hours.

Melissa Hood  9:29  
Why this specific topic? Why did you decide this documentary needs to be about this? What is your connection, your motivation for doing this?

Rodney Bodner  9:37  
Well, I've been a paramedic for 15 years, and I've seen a fair amount of my fair share of overdoses of patients, and I've never seen anything like methamphetamines. It's an insidious drug. It's not like an opioid where somebody would do the drug and they would overdose and you can use a counteragent such as naloxone, or arcam, to reverse the overdose. The meth, when overdoses happen, it's usually over a long period of time abuse, where they may be in a state of psychosis, or if they haven't used in a while is when they'll start to have symptoms, withdrawal symptoms that would cause an EMS response. And we don't have any medication that can counter a meth overdose. The only medications as paramedics, at least where I come from in Canada was a anti-psychotic, we could deliver to them, or we would help to sedate them. So there was no counter agent that we could use to reverse what was happening to them at the time. So I'm coming near the end of my career as a paramedic and I felt that I needed to do more. Meth in our community has crept up in the last three years, where it's overtaken any other drug use right now. We used to have the opiate scare which still exists but meth has become so cheap now. That's when you pay $2 at $10 for a point of mouth and give you the same type of effect as cocaine, what we're finding that people are turning to that, and it's a- it's everywhere. It's very easily accessible. So that's why I decided to personally fund the film on the methamphetamine crisis as a awareness- awareness campaign.

Melissa Hood  11:20  
So obviously, you know a lot about this. You did the whole documentary and everything. But what did you learn from this process?

Rodney Bodner  11:30  
Being a paramedic, I'm responding to emergencies that require immediate attention. And I never get to find a backstory as to why somebody was using methamphetamines or any drug for that matter. My objective was to to make sure that they made it to be hospital safe and alive. By filming this and speaking to users, I found that, you know, that there is a story behind it as to why they're using and using for a variety of reasons like the 80s drug scare the- most of us probably recall the commercials, when a drug dealer should look like it was somebody users should look like is completely wrong and fabricated. Two individuals that we that we filmed, one was a PhD student to the university. And another was actually a math and science teacher at a high school. And these are people you wouldn't expect. That wouldn't be using methamphetamines. But they were. What I mentioned about the screening that we did at one of the local universities here, following the film, the Dean came up to me and mentioned that two of the professors that they have on leave who are currently meth users. So it can affect everybody. So that's what I learned, is they're people, they need to be treated like people, not criminals, whether they have a trauma-inducing past or mental health issues, or, they're living in poverty, they're turning to the drug for a reason, we have to start addressing those reasons. And that's the only solution.

Melissa Hood  12:52  
And among some other things that you mentioned earlier, what are some other misconceptions that you want to let people know of

Rodney Bodner  13:00  
One is especially up here right now, people have this misconception that somebody using math would be extremely violent. It's not always the case. So that's a rare circumstance. And that seems to be the stuff that we only really see reported in the news. Somebody using meth, you may very well know now and not even have a clue that they're using. I know that math teacher that I was speaking about er- science teacher as well, while he's teaching he made mention off-camera that students would ask him, you know, at the height of Breaking Bad the TV show, what's the making the meth with a science teacher in that show they were asking him you know, Mr. So-and-so, you know, while this is a crazy show, can you teach us how to make meth, in a joking manner. And it was so surreal to him because while he was teaching, he's actually high on methamphetamines and the students didn't have a clue. The only time people really find out is when they notice somebody's lifestyles changing. With meth, meth is specific the- they alter their friends that they're hanging out with or there's a severe lack of sleep, and sometimes it's not too late or it gets too late to the point where they start going through psychosis and even then doesn't make them violent. Speaking to them helps a lot. So it's not people that are homeless that are just using meth. And not- that's another misconception about homeless people they are not all addicts, but it can affect everybody.

Melissa Hood  14:25  
We've been speaking with Canadian film producer Rodney Bodner about the new documentary "Methamphetamine: Community Under Siege." More info about this documentary can be found at jezzepeejones.ca. Or on the Jezzepee Jones Facebook page. With KBOO Evening News, I'm Melissa Hood.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai