Most of us have seen the show “Intervention” on TLC, and if you’re anything like me, have been extremely grateful to have never been on it. It features real life exposure of addicts and alcoholics whose families step in to get them the help they need, but with the ever-present camera and film crew on hand at all times.
The rise of the acceptance of addiction as a disease has recently brought it into the spotlight of mainstream media, including documentaries about addiction, and it’s unclear whether it’s doing damage or helping to shed light on the reality that many of us know all too well.
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For documentaries about addiction to be helpful to society, an unbiased approach and a goal to shed truth is probably the best place to start. TLC has made some headway with this, however, there are some documentaries and films out there that aren’t quite as scripted and dare I say… patronizing? Here is a short list of some of the most highly regarded documentaries and films.
The Vice channel has broadcast a series called plainly, Addiction. The first episode features a city in Indonesia where the residents use cigarettes as a way to prevent cancer, with even the children smoking in the belief that it is beneficial to their health. Obviously, this is taboo for America, and the show details the struggle these communities feel between doing what they think is good, regardless of what science and society tells them (sound familiar?)
The second episode follows a man who, as a long time struggling heroin user, goes to Mexico to try an herbal cure to kick his habit.
The main reason why the show is so good is because it’s real life. It’s very raw and unbiased and doesn’t try to take a side on the issue. It is simply, documenting.
Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery
We are used to watching movies where our favorite actors are portrayed drinking and sometimes doing drugs, (if you love Seth Rogen like I do, you’re aware that he sure does love smoking pot) so it’s nice to know that there are actors out there just like we are. Russell struggled with his addiction for years, using uppers and downers together, and was finally told he would end up in jail or a psych ward if he didn’t stop. His documentary is not a life story but an eye opening view for addicts and normies, about how addiction should be treated as a disease, and how the government ties into everything. Like Vice, it’s raw and smart and has no bias opinion except to shed the truth.
This documentary about addiction features interviews with young people who have experienced near-death situations from abusing drugs or alcohol. The shining light of this documentary lies in the wide scope of “types” of people. There are star athletes, teens with high GPA’s, kids in student government, etc. It’s a blaring reminder of how this disease can affect anyone of any type, and how fast it can come into effect.
Ben: Diary of a Heroin Addict
This film is about a boy from the upper middle class, a boy scout who, to the outsider, had a life that was set up for success. However, he fell into his heroin addiction and documented his last few months. The documentary follows him as he struggles to maintain his habit, to finding an acceptable spot to shoot into, and the lies he tells his family and friends. The film is a brutally honest view into the daily life of anyone struggling with an addiction, and the pain and torment they go through to achieve their high.
Kids on Ice
This documentary follows a group of teens from Australia and their addiction to methamphetamine. With the cheap and shoddy manufacturing and easy accessibility, Meth has become known as the most dangerous drug on earth. Highlighting this region in Australia, the film exposes the low resources available for treatment, to the severe damage of the use of the drug. The teens struggle as they fall deeper into their addictions, experiencing violent fits, relationship turmoil, and the rapid deterioration of their bodies and minds.
Requiem for a Dream
While this film isn’t a documentary, it was one of the first times I ever watched as someone destroyed their life with drugs. It starts with a widow who, once accepted to be on a gameshow, becomes addicted to her diet pills and sedatives to regain her once youthful figure. Meanwhile, her son and his two friends, are violently addicted to heroin and engage in petty theft and other immoral acts to get their high. This film left such an imprint on me, that when I was heavily in my addiction and doing immoral things, scenes from this movie would flash into my mind.
The Basketball Diaries
Featuring a star-studded cast, this movie was adapted from the autobiography of Jim Caroll. The author was a young basketball star living in New York. He had every opportunity to make it to the NBA but was introduced to pills, and eventually became addicted to heroin with his friends. The true life story follows the boys as they abandon the basketball court to chase their addictions on the street. They engage in robberies, shootings, prostitution, and the likes in order to fuel their use.
Many of these films are on Netflix or can be watched online, and there are countless more out there. They range from first-hand footage of addicts and alcoholics, all the way to the war on drugs and the effects of Big Pharma.
So whether you’re looking for a raw day by day view into the eyes of an addict or more understanding as to why the system works the way it does, documentaries about addictions are a great place to start.
Some of these films show quite a bit of drug use, and if you’re like me, watching someone engage in my previous drug of choice can make you feel a whole lot of uncomfortability. My only recommendation is that you don’t watch them alone, and you hit a meeting afterward!
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