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Opioid Crisis Documentaries and Movies: Which Ones are Worth Watching?

opioid crisis america

Informing yourself about the opioid crisis is crucial to understanding its causes, the extent of harm, and steps that can be done to improve the situation. This is why we have done the research for you and found the best opioid crisis documentaries and opioid crisis movies out there so that you can be informed.

  1. The Crime of The Century (2021)

This is an HBO-made, two-part documentary about how capitalistic greed and the villains that play a role in the opioid crisis influence one of the direst current public health issues in America. It is an engaging, thought-provoking tale of how two main drugs, Fentanyl and Oxycontin, are abused in America.

Pros: Recent and up-to-date (made in 2021), engaging and thought-provoking. An expertly-shot and edited film with a controversial and discussion-worthy tone. 

Cons: Focuses mainly on two different drugs, Fentanyl and Oxycontin. Thus lack of focus on other drugs such as Heroin, if this is the drug, you would like to inform yourself about. It is not a pleasant watch, thus not for people emotionally susceptible to deep discussions about drugs.

Worth Watching? A must-watch!

  1. Heroin(e) (2017)

This 39-minute Netflix documentary follows three brave women’s fights in Huntington, West Virginia, to break the cycle of the opioid crisis. It highlights how we need more women in positions of power and won an academy award for Best Short Documentary.

Pros: It is a short documentary, thus can be watched in one sitting. It is award-winning, educational, and based on true stories. Realistic.

Cons: I cannot think of any!

Worth Watching? For sure!

  1. Warning: This Drug May Kill You (2017)

This documentary includes another HBO program that follows the lives of four different families whose lives have all been upended by loved ones’ addictions. This documentary follows how overprescribing opioids can have devastating effects on family circles and relationships.

Pros: This documentary helps in the destigmatization of addiction, as it puts a human face on the opioid crisis in America. It also focuses on family members, rather than just those with addictions; thus, this is a novel aspect of the documentary.

Cons: Criticisms of the documentary are that previous older documentaries such as Oxycontin Time Bomb 2014 and American Addict 2013 provide more information and that this documentary is not so novel.

Worth Watching? Yes.

  1. 7 Days: The Opioid Crisis in Arkansas

This PBS documentary is produced by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Nathan Willis. The film’s focus centers around the dangerous use of fentanyl in Arkansas. The film is available free on YouTube here.

Pros: Meaningful and portrays addiction in a way that reduces the stigma surrounding it. It has been used in Public School viewings to raise awareness about addiction.

Cons: Centers only around drug abuse within the state of Arkansas.

Worth Watching? Definitely.

  1. Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic

Another PBS documentary comes as a TV mini-series. It focuses on how the opioid crisis came about and focuses on three central states; Seattle, Kentucky, and New Hampshire. These states are considered the epidemic ground zeros. There is also a book (Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic) based on the mini-series available for sale.

Pros: Award-winning, realistic, informative

Cons: Doesn’t offer solutions to the crisis.

Worth Watching? Yes.

  1. This Might Hurt

This movie explores non-invasive and drug-free solutions to chronic pain. It follows three patients who have spent many years searching for answers to their chronic pain causes. Since too often opioids are prescribed for chronic pain, this documentary examines alternatives that could be used to avoid overprescribing opioid medications

Pros: It focuses on possible solutions to the opioid crisis and is incredibly useful and informative. It is also unique compared to the other documentaries on the situation.

Cons: I cannot think of any!

Worth watching? Definitely!

  1. The Pharmacist (2020)

the pharmacist

This Netflix documentary is a thrilling investigative film that centers around a pharmacist who is trying to investigate the cause of the death of his son. He starts to realize there is a problem when many young people show up at his pharmacy with prescriptions of oxycontin. He then sets out to take the fight to big pharma himself.

Pros: Excellently filmed documentary, informative and engaging. Focuses on how we can change the situation we are in regarding the opioid crisis, in terms of going after big pharma.

Cons: No cons, brilliant!

Worth watching: Yes!

  1. Crisis (2021)

This film revolves around a scientist, a DEA agent, and a recovering addict who loses her son trying to bring down the different people responsible for the ongoing opioid crisis in their different ways. It is a fictional movie based on a non-fictional crisis

Pros: It is entertaining, thus can engage viewers with information about the opioid crisis who may not typically watch a documentary on the opioid crisis.

Cons: Lacks elements of realism as includes actors, and some aspects exaggerated for filming.

Worth watching? Yes, for people to get engaged with this topic. However, for more informative watching on factual information, other documentaries would be better.

  1. Recovery Boys (2018)

This film follows four men who try and support each other as they try to rebuild their lives and mend their broken relationships after years of addiction and drug abuse.

Pros: A beautiful film on a tough subject, and offers hope to addicts.

Cons: Criticisms of the film include that it is ‘well done, however too simplistic in its recommendations for solutions’.

  1. Painkiller (Inside the Opioid Crisis, 2018)

This is a 45 minute documentary on people who are directly and indirectly impacted by opioid addiction, and the people who have lost their lives to it.

Pros: A lot of research went into the making of the film.

Cons: Focuses only on Fentanyl, thus if you want information on other drugs you would have to choose another documentary.

Worth watching: Yes!

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