• Monica Smit

9th April - Shocking new information on the drug epidemic in USA

Updated: May 6, 2019

This week my opinions of addiction have changed forever. New knowledge and exposure has taught me that addiction, especially to opioids, is a disease not a characteristic of moral failing of a person. If you don't agree, you need to do more research because if you're an American, one day you'll be face-to-face with an addict you love and you should have empathy instead of disapproval. Your attitude towards these desperate people could change someone's life.

As you know, I’m not a professional videographer, interviewer or video editor…but I’m learning quite quickly by throwing myself into the ‘deep-end’.

I’ve somehow found myself making a very important documentary, perhaps the most important project I’ve ever done. I’m honoured and scared at the same time. I’ve never done a project that could directly save someone’s life, until now. This video’s audience is politicians, medical directors and state decision-makers. The pressure is immense, but the determination is stronger.

My primary goal is to promote a new project called ‘PROJECT SAVE LIVES’. It’s a pilot program that has been running for almost 2 years in Jacksonville, Florida. IT’S WORKING…IT’S SAVING LIVES!!! (just like the name of the pilot suggests). We want to encourage states across America to take on the same project. Jacksonville has gone through the tedious motions of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Their success can be duplicated across America.

Everyone is taking me so seriously, not knowing I don’t really know what I’m doing haha :-) I have become really good at ‘faking it'. It’s the weirdest thing when I look around the room and see a Councilman, a medical director and the emergency director of Jacksonville all waiting on my instructions. It makes me laugh and stress all at once. When they find out I sleep in my car and shower at gyms, and that I’m ‘winging it’ with this whole journalist-thing…they laugh along with me. I see the intrigue in their eyes, but I also see confusion.

One amusing thing people always ask me when they find out I sleep in my car is, “do you have a gun?”. They are surprised when I say no and think I am crazy to do this alone. People always remark how brave I am but while I'm living through it, it doesn't seem brave at all...it's just my life now and seems so normal to me. The world 'brave' should really be set aside for actual brave people that risk their lives to save others, I don't fit in that category.

I do get nervous. Sometimes they use terms I don’t understand or say things they expect me to know. They are all older, professional and well-respected people sitting in a room with a 30-year-old Aussie girl who lives in her car…it really is a hilarious picture in these board rooms. I only have 2 decent professional outfits so if I have to see the same person 3 times, I’ll definitely have to repeat an outfit :-)

Once I forgot to flick the switch on my microphone and lost a 45-minute interview. I had to fess-up and tell him what happened and hope he’d find it funny and not annoying. I was very embarrassed, but he reassured me by saying ‘let it go Monica, it’s fine’, so we re-did the interview the next day. I’m certain technical mistakes like that happen for a reason, so I’m sure his second interview was better.

I went with 3 of my interviewees into a hospital where they were instructing the nurses about the new protocol coming into their Emergency room. We crammed into a small, cold lunch roo (every indoor place in Florida is freezing by the way). One of the men explained why I was there, laughed and said ‘if you wanna be amused, ask her to say something’. Americans LOVE my accent, it’s a fantastic ice-breaker. People walk into rooms when they hear my voice just to listen to me. I like talking in general and I like audiences, so this is not a hard thing for me to do :-)

While I was in the room with all the nurses, one nurse was particularly vocal about the issues they face in the emergency room. She said one man had overdosed 17 times and his Mother was at her ‘wits-end’ and didn’t know what to do. The nurse explained that they have NO options to help these patients after they are revived. Likely, they’ll go back to wherever they overdosed and be back in emergency room soon.

This hospital has the MOST overdoses in Jacksonville. They’ve seen it all. She told me a few short stories that hurt my heart. A mother went into the Walmart bathroom to shoot up drugs. She overdosed and her 2-year-old son was running around the parking lot on his own. When a human being leaves their son out in public while they ‘shoot-up’ in a mall bathroom…you know there’s a physiological disease, that’s not a normal addiction. One man came into the ER and his girlfriend seemed surprised that he was using and overdosed. They went home and 2 hours later, SHE was back in the ER overdosing.

These drug cocktails are like nothing they’ve ever seen in this ER. Every day they have to watch people’s lives being ruined by substance abuse. These nurses are heroes in my opinion, I honestly don’t know how they do it but thank God they do.

I used to think addicts were addicts because they’d made a lot of bad decisions in a row. While that is true to some extent, these modern drugs are a new beast. When people choose drugs over their children, over their family, over everything they love in life…the drug is something you don’t understand. It’s happening to all ages, all races and all demographics…in fact the most common overdose patients are middle aged, Caucasian men.

This past week has really scared me. This epidemic is getting worse…not better! I really hope I can help raise awareness of this and promote the solution that Jacksonville has proved works.

Please pray for me and for the success of this project.

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