5 Must-See Documentaries on Addiction

03/28/20: Addiction Recovery

Movies and documentaries on addiction have the power to inspire us, influence us, and help us feel not so alone in our beliefs, behaviors, and struggles. And of course, above all, they’re just plain entertaining! A good, captivating documentary can work wonders in opening our minds and changing our way of thinking, which is why we want to discuss our must-see films tackling the subject of addiction. Addiction can be such an isolating experience, and it can feel like no one around you fully understands what you’re going through, even if you’re recovering. The documentaries on addiction we will talk about can all help you feel less alone, and perhaps even open your eyes to the struggles that others are facing in their day-to-day lives. 

But before we get into it, just a warning: Some of these documentaries on addiction can depict actions and behaviors that can be extremely triggering for some individuals, so proceed with caution. 


1. Russel Brand: From Addiction to Recovery

Russell Brand is well known for his past struggles with addiction, having been in the throes of a heroin dependence ten years ago which almost led to the downfall of his career — and the end of his life. In this very personal film, Brand recounts the story of his battle with addiction and how he finally managed to get clean. He connects it to an effort to challenge how our society views and deals with addicts and addiction. 

He ties in the tragic death of Amy Winehouse, a wildly talented musician and dear friend of Brand’s who lost her life to addiction. It motivated him to explore the ‘condition of addiction’, which he believes is misunderstood and treated the completely wrong way. His goal with the film is to challenge conventional theories and methods of treating addiction in an effort to re-frame the conversation surrounding addiction recovery. He addresses questions like: “Is addiction a disease?” “Should it be criminalized?” “Is abstinence-based recovery a possible way forward?” 

In addition to thought-provoking discussion on systemic issues, he also uses his own knowledge and experience to help someone he meets to get on the journey to recovery as he once did.

Reviews are saying…

“Bloody brilliant. An incredibly incisive look at how little we do not know about addiction, but think we do. And yes, it is funny in places.” — Rena, Amazon

“I personally understand this issue and believe this video could be helpful not only for addicts but, perhaps more importantly, for friends and families of addicts to understand what their friend/loved one is going through and perhaps be supportive and helpful. I highly recommend this video to anyone facing this problem or wishing to be more informed on the subject.” — Tita, Amazon


2. Montana Meth

Montana has the highest meth use rates in the entire country, so it’s only fitting that there was a documentary made on the subject. Meth is widely available in the Montana area, therefore it’s quite easy for teens and young adults to get their hands on. The film follows 16-year-old Graham and 22-year-old Crystal as they go out to a secluded parking lot to shoot up. Crystal talks candidly to the camera about everything she’s lost after becoming hooked on meth, including her job and her truck. This is followed by a clip of her dissolving meth in a spoon, drawing the substance into a syringe, and injecting it into her neck. She explains that she came to Montana to join the military, and the first person she met was the person who introduced her to the drug. The addicts featured in the film all have a laundry list of things they lost to the drug, including family, friendships, and even parts of their personalities.

The film also addresses the meth epidemic on the Crow Nation Native American reservation. The drug has been devastating the native community in Montana, and members of the community are doing everything they can to spread awareness. 

Reviews are saying…

“It's terrifying and gruesome, putting a sick — and disturbingly young — face on an issue that's made headlines in this state for years. Watching it, you're forced to consider: Right now, there are Montana kids doing the same thing to their bodies and minds and futures.” — Jamie, Missoulian


3. The Anonymous People

When addiction is portrayed on film and even in documentaries, they tend to end on a nebulous note, where the fate of the addicts is up to interpretation. Many of these documentaries fail to show enough positivity, which is something the film The Anonymous People attempts to combat. This is a film focused on the stories of some of the 23.5 million Americans who are living in long-term recovery from drug, alcohol, or other addictions. Many recovering addicts feel the need to keep themselves anonymous, ashamed of their status as a former substance user. While this is completely understandable, as some people simply want to leave those dark times in the past, the hopefulness of recovery tends to be overshadowed by sensationalized news and media that depict addiction as a dark, twisted disease that few truly recover from. 

The film is told through the voices of leaders, volunteers, celebrities, and regular people with the goal of sharing their stories of recovery and mobilizing others to join them in their life of sobriety. The documentary is full of hopeful messages and inspiring tales that will touch anyone’s heart and make them realize that recovery IS possible.

Reviews are saying…

“This passionate polemic might very well go down in history for transforming public opinion about the recovery movement.” — Kam, Baret News


4. Heroin(e)

Huntington, West Virginia is the setting of this documentary, where the overdose rate is ten times the national average. The film centers around police, judges, and local nonprofits and charitable organizations that are working around the clock to help people recover from addiction, specifically opioid addiction. The film’s title is Heroin(e) because of its focus on three particular women: Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, who treats overdose victims along with her team of other emergency responders; Cabell County Judge Patricia Keller, who heads the drug court; and Necia Freeman of Brown Bag Ministry, who delivers meals to women who have resorted to prostitution in order to fund their addictions.

This film focuses primarily on the burdens placed on first responders due to the opioid crisis, and the psychological battles they fight as they respond to overdose after overdose.

Reviews are saying…

“[Elaine McMillion] Sheldon's choice to follow three women pays off in a big way, keeping the viewer engaged and presenting a fuller picture of the former industrial town.” — Jude, indiewire

“McMillion Shelton doesn't sugarcoat the severity of the crisis, but watching these women addressing it is oddly hopeful and entertaining.” — Dan, Arkansas Democratic-Gazette


5. Generation Found

Generation Found comes from the creators of The Anonymous People. This film tackles the topic of youth addiction, which is often overlooked due to general attitudes about teen behavior that often prevent their struggles from being taken seriously. This film tells the extremely powerful story of one community’s effort and success in igniting a youth addiction recovery revolution in Houston, Texas. The film states “In one of the largest cities in America, visionary counselors, law school dropouts, aspiring rock musicians, retired football players, oil industry executives, and church leaders come together to build the world’s largest peer-driven youth and family recovery community.” 

This documentary shows how important it is to build a system and community where resources exist and are even celebrated, such as treatment centers, sober high schools, alternative peer groups, and collegiate recovery programs. These programs make early intervention possible, preventing devastating consequences to youth’s lives.

Reviews are saying…

“There are many personal stories and intimate footage from support groups and the other organizations, and there is hope in knowing that 36 recovery high schools exist in the U.S. with 7 more being developed. The film exposes the true power of community, and how some leaders understand how crucial it is to help these youngsters develop into productive citizens.” — Anonymous, IMDB


As the credits roll...

While we feel these 5 documentaries on addiction are worth watching, we must remember that movies and television shows often portray the world of drugs as glamorous and thrilling, and sometimes we need a good dose of reality to bring us back down to earth and remind us that there are people suffering and dying from addiction every day. These documentaries on addiction are gritty, realistic looks into the lives of people dealing with addiction, and we can’t recommend them enough. 




If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact 602-737-1619 or email [email protected] to get the help you need. Our acclaimed recovery environment merges upscale, luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare.

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