Addiction on Cape Cod: A thinly veiled struggle

Falmouth native and rookie filmmaker sets out to make documentary about addiction
First-time filmmaker Sam Tarplin turns his camera on his hometown of Falmouth in his documentary "What Happened Here: The Untold Story of Addiction on Cape Cod". Facebook photo.

Whether people realize it or not, addiction is an issue that affects everyone in the community.  Even if you haven't experienced addiction yourself or through a loved one, friend or co-worker, you read about it every day in the news. 

Opioid abuse and overdoses (including heroin and oxycodone) are on the rise.  To contend with what appears to be approaching an epidemic on Cape Cod, local police departments have put forth new efforts to educate and empower the public through Narcan (an application of Narcan can immediately reverse the affect of an opioid overdose) overdose training classes. Several of these classes have been hosted by the Yarmouth and Harwich Police Departments in an effort to help save lives. State Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich) has also been a strong advocate for treatment vs. incarceration for drug addicts.

But even as legislators and members of public safety step forward to work with addicts and their families, many in the community still regard the battle with addiction as an us versus them situation.

First-time filmmaker Sam Tarplin wishes to address the ever widening gap between those suffering from addiction and the public at large that often turns their back on such people in crisis. 

Tarplin is in the middle of producing and directing a documentary about addiction on Cape Cod entitled "What Happened Here: The Untold Story of Addiction on Cape Cod". As a recovering addict himself, Tarplin knows first hand about the subject of his film. "My hope is to get Cape Cod talking about addiction, and figuring out solutions instead of hoping it gets better on its own," he said.

The first-time documentarian sees what he calls a worrying trend towards ostracism.  The stigma attached to drug and alcohol addiction is great and appears to be getting greater. This makes for what Tarplin calls "a mission impossible" when it comes to an addict seeking help.  "The beautiful beaches and summer tourists thinly veil a community struggling with a serious issue," said Tarplin.

Yet at the same time, Tarplin speaks of real hope for the Cape in the way of what he calls a thriving recovery community including faith-based support programs, treatment centers and 12-step programs, not to mention the many Cape Codders who once struggled with addiction and have maintained a clean and sober existence.

With a background in music and still photography, this will be Tarplin's first cinematic endeavor. "Anyone who knows me and my story knows I am driven to make this," Tarplin said on the film's Facebook page.

The film will consist of interviews of the people touched by addiction--the addicts (both active and sober), their families and the many people who face their addictions with them--first responders, doctors, therapists and law enforcement officers.

The project's Facebook page speaks volumes about the number of people living and working on Cape Cod who are touched by addiction.  The over 1,800 fans on the page offer a glimpse into the lives of those who have either struggled with addiction themselves, or know somebody who has.

Tarplin has received funds through a indiegogo.com campaign and further financial support has been made by members of the community including the Falmouth Jewish Congregation,  the Parents Supporting Parents Group of Mashpee and an anonymous donor. "All I have is an idea, some mediocre camera equipment, some interviews lined up and a whole lot of motivation," Tarplin said on his Facebook page.

Anyone interested in supporting Tarplin's endeavor--either in spirit or financially-may get in touch with him here. The film is slated for release fall 2014.


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