The opioid crisis is one of the country’s deadliest epidemics, with overdoses killing 115 Americans every day, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
It affects men and women of all ages, races, backgrounds and socioeconomic status. From rural towns to major cities, no community has escaped the impact of the crisis.
In Columbus, Ohio, “James” sees it first-hand. As a special agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Columbus field office, James has worked narcotics investigations since 1988. He has had an up close look at his hometown become one of the hardest hit areas in the United States.
“The demand is crazy because of how addictive and powerful the drug is,” he said. “With an insatiable demand, there’s an insatiable supply. It’s never-ending.”
James’ efforts to combat the crisis will be highlighted in Episodes 3 and 4 of the Showtime documentary “The Trade.” Episode 3 airs Friday, Feb. 16, at 9 p.m. ET.
Episode 4 will air Friday, Feb. 23.
“The Trade” is a five-part documentary about the opioid epidemic in the United States. It examines the impact the crisis has had in Ohio, and follows the long, winding trail of the drug trade from America’s borders into central Ohio. The series was directed and executive produced by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mathew Heineman. The documentary shares the stories of addicts, interwoven with a law enforcement perspective, highlighting HSI’s investigative efforts to combat the surge in heroin and opioid-related trafficking and distribution.
In examining the opioid epidemic, “The Trade” shows viewers the perspective of the drug traffickers, the addicts and their friends and families and law enforcement investigating the traffickers.
Episodes 3 and 4 follow HSI Columbus, led by James and fellow special agent “Ryan,” as it uncovers a drug trafficking ring. It was discovered that a Mexican drug cartel was using two women, one who was eight months pregnant, to take in several bricks of heroin and distribute them to local drug dealers. The investigation resulted in the arrest of the two women and a major disruption of heroin trafficking in Columbus.
“The ability for Showtime to piece together a puzzle that told the big picture was great,” James said. “Viewers will be able to see that this is a really big problem that’s not going away anytime soon.”
As the national spotlight on opioids continues to increase, education about the epidemic is essential. According to James, experience has taught him that some people are doing it because they’re greedy, want to get rich quick and don’t want to work. For others, there is no choice. They were forced one way or the other to be in the situation.
In watching “The Trade,” he hopes those who are struggling with opioid addiction see that they’re not alone, and the general public, especially those in Columbus, gains greater appreciation for the total picture.
“I like the fact that what I do positively impacts where I live,” James said. “It’s still a pretty small town, so you make small impacts along the way. Those are the victories we look forward to – making a difference in individual’s lives.”