With his new documentary, “Out of Reach,” filmmaker Cyrus Stowe, a senior at a Dallas high school, set out to uncover the growing problem of friends sharing and abusing prescription medications in his hometown.
If you’re selected to create a film, debut it at a New York City film festival, cast it with friends from your own life and do it within the span of about a month, it’s a pretty daunting undertaking.
The subject of my film, “Out of Reach,” was teen abuse of prescription medicine, and drawing on my own, very personal connection to the issue, it took me on a life-changing adventure. Co-produced with a great mentor, Tucker Capps of A&E’s “Intervention,” it premiered last week in New York City at the Genart Film Festival.
From my first treatment to the final cut, I wanted to raise awareness about just how many teens are abusing medicine. However, it wasn’t until I started talking to my friends and making this film that I understood the true scope of the problem, which is pretty scary.
I go to school and am friends with kids who have been abusing medicine for years, but I didn’t have the slightest clue they were using. These are good, smart kids, and if I had no idea, I imagine that many of their families don’t either. My friends, those in front of and behind the camera, are a big reason why this film was possible, and I’m so thankful they could be a part of it.
One story that I wish we were able to bring to light focused on a friend who is legitimately prescribed ADHD medications. She told us that these stimulants are bought and sold at school, especially among kids who want to pop a pill before a test. Unfortunately, her family pulled her story at the last minute.
Still, I’m lucky, because friends and social status are both a pretty big part of high school. In fact, when I’d first learned that I was selected, I was cautious. “What will my social standing be before, during and especially after the film?” And, “do I worry more about what happens to my social life, or do I help people?”
I chose the latter, and even a few of my friends who’ve seen the film have given me positive feedback. But this film is for parents, and what I’ve found from these early screenings is that moms and dads are far more surprised at this behavior than their kids. For us, unfortunately, it’s what we already know, and it’s what we already expect.
This film isn’t a blueprint of how teens can abuse medicine, but a mirror to what is happening in cities all across America. Pull back on your internet map and you will likely find the same stories in cities and towns everywhere. You can change the names and the reasons why they use, whether it’s boredom or peer pressure or the desire to achieve or overachieve, but it’s there.
After watching the film, you’ll find that many stories are still unresolved and many of my friends and classmates are still using. But I hope that it will make the people more aware and realize that this is a real issue.
I’m grateful that my film can open eyes and prompt action, and that can start with talking with your kids about medicine abuse, and safeguarding your medicine. It’s as simple as going into your bathroom, opening up your medicine cabinet and understanding the orange bottles in front of you are easy targets for abuse. Keep them safe and out of reach.
View the trailer, and email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how you can help #EndMedicineAbuse by sharing the full film and an accompanying “Out of Reach” toolkit with your friends, schools, communities, families and more.