Filmmaker profiles young man’s struggle with substance abuse disorders

“More than 100,000 people have died from an overdose in the past year,” he says. “And Josiah’s story is one that we hope can help save lives.”

The Centers for Disease Control released that figure on Wednesday. Those numbers aren’t final yet, but it’s a total the nation has never seen before.

Experts say it’s linked to the pandemic and a more dangerous drug supply – and it’s a problem in Minnesota.

“It’s really devastating because, in combination with the pandemic, I think we also have changes in the type of drugs available to people on the streets,” says Dr Sara Polley, of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. “There has been a lot of increased isolation for people with mental health and addiction issues. ”

As you may have guessed, “Josiah” is not a light dish of popcorn.

The film – shot in Minnesota and several other states – tells the story of Josiah’s six-year struggle with substance use disorders.

“I never thought I needed to educate my kids about drugs, I never touched a drug,” recalls Maria Kouts, Josiah’s mother. “My kids came from a good home, Josiah was smart, he had great grades, he was an athlete, a whole American family, honestly.”

She says Josiah graduated from high school in a small town in Arizona in 2011, earning a scholarship the following year.

Then things changed.

“He got injured in football, he took a medically prescribed opioid and it never stopped from there,” Kouts recalls.

Josiah’s family say he started using drugs when he was just 19.

“Anyone in the country can relate to someone they know,” Carlini says. “Your next door neighbor, the kid who has all the potential to become addicted to drugs and his life is falling apart.”

The film shows – sometimes graphically – how Josiah started using heroin and fentanyl. His life switches between drug addiction and well-being.

“He’s overdosed several times in those six years, he’s been to multiple drug rehabs, he’s moved overseas to Paris,” Kouts says. “He got married and was clean, did very well and it came back to him.”

There was no happy ending here.

“He ended up divorcing and returning home, and three months later he was dead,” Kouts says.

On January 23, 2018, Josiah, 25 at the time, overdosed in her bedroom at the family home.

This time it was fatal.

“I knocked on his door and found him lying with a needle in his arm. IV. Heroin, ”says Josiah’s father Jason. “And he used it constantly. I was constantly fighting him back and forth, trying to force him. .. to clean up. It did not work. “

Carlini, later reading about Josiah, connected with the family and they agreed to help with the film.

They too have come to Woodbury, hoping that this project will help others struggling with substance use disorders.

“Of course I would like to save more,” says Jason Kouts. “But if we can save one person, my son’s efforts are worth it.”

“The opposite of addiction is connection”

The film’s release, in a time of record overdoses, touched many people at the premiere, including Randy Anderson, an addiction counselor who has been recovering for 16 years after battling cocaine use.

He says pandemic isolation has made the opioid crisis worse.

“I said I hope I never see a day when we see 100,000 deaths in this country and now we are seeing it,” Anderson said quietly. “We like to say in the recovery world, the opposite of addiction is connection. And when you aren’t able to connect with people, really in person, face to face, it can be devastating for many. of people.

Polley – the Youth Continuum medical director at Hazeldon Betty Ford – says the isolation and increased fentanyl use has been a deadly combination.

“The traffickers are providing these illicit substances to people who don’t even know that this may be the case, or how much of the stuff they are providing,” she says. “I hope … with access to vaccines and the way doctors are improving to treat COVID, that people will feel more comfortable leaving their homes, going to meetings in the community , access treatment services and facilities. ”

Carlini says he was inspired to make the film after a high school classmate died of a drug overdose two years ago.

He says he gets a lot of inquiries about showing “Josiah” in treatment centers and in the recovery community.

Carlini says due to popular demand there will be a one-time encore screening next Tuesday, November 23 at Woodbury 10 at 7:30 p.m.

“Our main goal is really to make prevention count,” he explains. “And get the students to see this film, to see the end of the opioid crisis. If you start taking heroin, if you start taking fentanyl, there is a good chance that you will die.

Maria Kouts – an associate pastor at her church – says she now counsels young people struggling with substance use disorders.

“They say grief is pain that has nowhere to go,” she said. “After Josiah died, I realized I needed to channel this pain and help others. We say if it’s a life, it’s worth it.”

About Rhonda Lee

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