Brainspotting: Film exposes pain of quitting heroin

By By Davey Davis

By Davey Davis

Filmmaker Curtis Elliott said he watched his hometown of St. Louis fall into heroin addiction and wants to fight for a solution by showing his film “HairKutt” on campus.

The film explores his close friend “HairKutt’s” addiction to heroin and graphically portrays his attempts to stop using the drug.

Elliott and his film will be shown Oct. 21 at the Post Theater at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. for public viewing and 2 p.m. for media, police and social work personnel.

Bryant “HairKutt” Johnson was addicted for more than 15 years when Elliott decided to help him quit. Elliott recruited two friends and drove HairKutt away for a weeklong attempt to get off of heroin, cold turkey, in a rented Tennessee cabin 10 hours away.

The film follows HairKutt’s decline and the three friends’ eventual abandonment of their goal to help him; they are unable to afford the expensive rehab. The film ends with HairKutt’s current situation, a year-and-a-half later.

Heroin addiction is a social concern because addicts must perpetuate their habit, often resorting to theft or violence, Elliott said.

He believes prevention is the only way to battle the country’s addiction.

“Kids know absolutely nothing about it until someone who’s tried it comes along and tells them it’s great. It’s cheap, and these kids have nothing to spend money on but drugs, so they all get hooked,” he said.

Elliot’s film is designed to show middle and high-school children how hard it is to quit the drug, since many parents do not initiate conversations about drugs.

“I want parents to understand someone will talk to your kids about drugs, no matter how affluent you are, so that person should be you,” he said.

Rob Hunsaker, coordinator of the Campus Wellness Connection, agrees that prevention is a solution to drug addiction but said he has a problem with the tactics presented by Elliott.

“Data shows that scare tactics are not a good preventative message,” he said. “They work in the short term but have little long-term effect.”

But Hunsaker said he does support showing the anti-drug film on campus.

“Any kind of education and awareness is helpful; the film may draw the interest of students to help,” he said.

Elliott said he was concerned about his son’s perspective on drugs, one of the factors that compelled him to make the documentary.

“I knew my son would be exposed, so I had to show him beyond just telling him drugs were bad,” he said. “(The film) is credible because it is true.”

The story has no easy solution to drug addiction and illustrates the lack of options HairKutt’s friends had in helping him.

Although campus police have not made arrests for any heroin-related activity on campus in the past year, U Detective Mike McPharlin said, “That doesn’t mean (heroin use) doesn’t exist.”

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