Documentaries combine the power of a story with the realism of life. They can be a potent examination and statement on any topic including addiction and recovery.
There have been a number of powerful documentaries made on the tragic consequences of addiction and the difficult yet inspiring moments of recovery. Seeing them can help a person struggling with addiction to feel a connection with others who have been where he or she has been. They can inspire someone to seek treatment and make a better life for themselves, or to stay clean and sober and avoid relapse.
Though documentaries on the subject are many, some stand out among the crowd. These five are our favorites.
1) The Anonymous People
Over 20 million people in the United States struggle with substance abuse issues. The Anonymous People, a documentary from 2013, takes a broad look at the problem. It follows the lives of a number of people in recovery, from corporate executives to volunteer workers.
The purpose is to destigmatize the subject of addiction recovery. Throughout The Anonymous People, people in recovery become brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, moms and dads. The goal is to change the public’s perception of addiction and treatment and, they hope, its response to the problem.
The movie is a powerful look at the impact of addiction, its personal nature, and how we can better respond to the crisis of substance abuse.
2) Generation Found
The people who brought you The Anonymous People also produced Generation Found, a documentary about a group of people in Houston, Texas who collaborate to provide addiction recovery for youths in their area. They wound up creating the world’s largest youth and family recovery community. The group is a diverse mix of people from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life, including counselors, rock musicians, law school dropouts, oil industry executives, church leaders and even retired football players.
The film took two years to shoot and focuses on how treatment centers, alternative peer groups and recovery programs can cooperate with each other and make a difference, especially if they can provoke change early. It is an uplifting and inspiring tale about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity as well as the effectiveness of our efforts if we work together and look for smarter solutions.
3) Russell Brand: From Addiction To Recovery
Amy Winehouse was a famous musician who, like so many musical performers before her, died due to drugs at the age of 27. She was friends with Russel Brand, who used her tragic passing as inspiration to make a documentary about addiction but with a different ending. Russell Brand became clean and sober at the age of 27 after spending years of partying and drug abuse.
In the film, Russell Brand speaks to a wide variety of people on the topic of substance abuse and recovery. He talks to scientists researching the psychology of addiction, professionals creating new and hopefully more effective recovery treatments and the people struggling with addiction.
It is an engaging film that explores the topic and asks difficult questions. Is addiction really a disease? Does it help or hurt to criminalize drug use? Is abstinence-based recovery truly effective? He challenges establishment theories and questions the efficacy of government policy when it comes to addiction and substance abuse.
4) Montana Meth
Methamphetamines cause a host of physical damages in people who take them, including tooth decay, skin lesions and even paranoia and brain damage. They ultimately can lead to the death of those who take them. Montana Meth looks at the lives of several people struggling with meth addictions in small towns in Montana. It also explores the damage meth is doing to Native American tribes in the area.
The people in the documentary range from a former straight A student and gifted athlete who has dropped out of high school after one year of using meth, to a young woman who traded sex for meth until she finally stopped using, to a member of the Chippewa Cree tribe who, at the age of 22, has been taking meth since he was 11.
5) Ben: Diary Of A Heroin Addict
This documentary features footage shot by a young man hooked on heroin as he records his final days in his struggle with heroin. Ben Rogers, the subject of the film, came from a privileged, middle-class background. He was a bright student with a promising future ahead of him, but all that withered away when he started taking heroin.
He kept a video diary of his struggles as he tries and fails to get clean. His family is desperate to help him but heroin is a drug that constantly haunts him. One particularly poignant scene shows Ben mixing his next dose of heroin while telling his mother on the phone that he is clean and making a new start.
These films are entertaining and well made, but provide a serious message for those who struggle with addiction, those who have struggled with addiction, and for those who never have but could use a reminder of why it’s important to stay drug free.