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In New Film, A Utah Portrait Of Heroin Abuse

Erik Neumann
Filmmaker Jenny Mackenzie at a screening of Dying in Vein.

A Utah filmmaker has a new documentary called Dying in Vein. It looks at the state’s high rates of opiate and heroin addiction through the experiences of drug users and their family members here in Utah.

For filmmaker Jenny Mackenzie addiction is a personal issue.

"I have three family members who have struggled with addiction," Mackenzie says. 

Mackenzie became interested in doing a film about the state’s opioid problem a few years back. But it wasn’t until a friend of her college-age daughter overdosed on heroin, and his mom contacted her, that the project really began.

"When she called me I knew there was a reason to tell this story." 

For three years Mackenzie collected the stories of young people from Salt Lake City involved with heroin: two who were caught up in addiction, one who had recovered, and her daughter’s friend Chase, who had overdosed.

The film is personal and sometimes graphic. Scenes include drug use and Chase’s funeral. Mackenzie says everyone she filmed volunteered in order to help shift the shame and judgment that prevents conversations about addiction from happening.  

"I think for any social issue or public health issue that is closeted, there is going to be shame because you can’t talk about it. And so for me, I think the way to confront shame is to create discussion and conversation," Mackenzie says. 

Dying in Vein is screening at high schools and community centers in Utah as well as in other states. Several upcoming screenings are happening in Park City where, last year, two teenagers overdosed on a synthetic opiate known as “pink.” 

With these screenings, Mackenzie is creating a space where teens can see other young people like them, living in the same place, dealing with the same pressures. She hopes it will help steer them in the right direction.

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