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5 Documentaries about Substance Abuse You Can Stream on Netflix Right Now

With coronavirus still ravaging the country and the threat of autumn chills looming, many of us are spending more time at home curled up in front of the television. While this list is not a sign-off on using substance abuse as entertainment, it is aimed to be a helpful tool to guide your viewing toward the more tasteful and informative media on offer. As the title says, here are 5 documentaries about substance abuse you can stream on Netflix right now:

1. Heroin(e) (2017)


This Oscar nominated documentary follows the story of three women in Huntington, West Virginia who have been battling the opioid epidemic on the front lines. Huntington is located in Cabell County, which contributed the most overdose deaths to West Virginia (140 per 100,000 residents) in 2015—10 times the national average. Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, Cambell County Judge Patricia Keller, and Necia Freeman from the Brown Bag Ministry share their stories and how they are taking action within their community to give Huntington a fighting chance against opioids and its repercussions. With a 100% Critic Rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a 39-minute run time, Heroin(e) is sure to inspire while also leaving you some time to devise your own local initiatives.

2. Recovery Boys (2018)

From Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Director of Heroin(e), comes another documentary set in the heart of the opioid pandemic, this time following the lives of four men as they attempt to recover from substance abuse. The men seek rehabilitation over the course of 18 months at Jacob’s Ladder, a long term residential treatment program that engrosses participants in farm work and classes, similar to Birmingham’s own Foundry Ministries. Praised by critics for being deeply personal and relatable, Recovery Boys is a beam of hope in a crisis that often feels devoid of it.

3. The Pharmacist (2020)

This true-crime docu-series tells the story of Dan Schneider, the eponymous small town pharmacist who transformed his grief over his son’s murder into a full-fledged investigation into local corruption and substance dependency. Schneider’s story is well-documented and was a source of national interest before the coronavirus pandemic went into full effect. The four-part documentary captures a larger picture of the opioid epidemic while also showing the impact one passionate person can have on a problem much larger than themselves.

4. How to Fix a Drug Scandal (2020)

Netflix continues to flex the potential of what the “true crime series” can be with this entry, a documentary series that details the crimes of two drug lab chemists and the ripples they continue to have in Massachusetts’s judicial system. If The Pharmacist is a story about the good one person can do in response to the opioid epidemic, How to Fix a Drug Scandal is a glimpse of the harm someone in a position of power can wield on a community, even at the state level. While not as inspiring as some of the other items on this list, this earns its spot for highlighting the complexity of the interconnected system that is substance abuse and the criminal prosecution arm of the government.

5. Take Your Pills (2018)


Most modern students can likely attest to the whispered promises in our schools and universities about the “miracle drug” called Adderall, a prescription amphetamine often used to treat the symptoms of ADHD. Take Your Pills is an exploratory account of the societal factors that encourage the use of performance enhancing substances like Adderall. As Psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell notes, while this documentary is a well-meaning alert on the negatives of Adderall, it does a disservice to the positive effects that taking the drug as prescribed and under the supervision of a healthcare professional can have. This documentary skews slightly toward being infotainment but some of the information within it is a valuable stepping stone for parents.

Have you seen any of these? Do you plan to check any out? Let us know in the comments. Be sure to visit apcbham.org for more resources.

Written by: Hunter Freeman 

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