Posted: 03/20/2007




by Dianne Lawrence

From HBO. Executive producer: Sheila Nevins; producers: John Hoffman, Susan Froemke; directors: Jon Alpert, Froemke, Albert Maysles, Eugene Jarecki, Kate Davis, David Heilbroner, Liz Garbus, Rory Kennedy, D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, Alan Raymond, Susan Raymond, Barbara Kopple.

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HBO’s Addiction is a dispassionate, just the facts ma’m look at the emerging science and various treatments addressing the problem of America’s over 20 million drug and alcohol addicts. Some of the facts are eye opening. If you are not addicted by the age of 25, it is less likely that you will become addicted to alcohol or illicit drugs later in life and nearly 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 are classified with substance abuse or dependence.

Several directors take a look at various aspects of the devastating effects of addiction on the user and their intimate associates while interviews with doctors and scientists explain the science behind a brain that only knows how to GO and has lost a capacity to “just say NO.” It’s all in the chemistry and make up of the brain as we watch a doctor point out to a strangely normal looking, somewhat overweight meth addict, the cat scans of his brain and the colorful areas of critical and normal response that have disappeared. Even still, the wonder of denial kicks in as the methamphetamine addict refuses to believe that this information is reliable.

Although we pour billions of dollars into fighting drug production in foreign countries… we witness the complete failure of our managed care and insurance industry to provide any meaningful treatment resulting in either the continued addiction of the user who really wants treatment or their death. Of the over 20 million Americans who needed treatment in 2005, only 3.9 million received it. It’s almost as if the country is fostering addiction in order to support the “drug war” industry.

Ironically the treatments the documentary focuses on are other drugs, medicines that address the neurology of the brain and inhibit or negatively reward cravings. But the professionals warn that without a strong desire to quit even these drugs fail. Strangely, other than a rather touching segment on big strong union guys creating a recovery environment at work, little information is offered about the 12 Step programs that create the strong community support addicts need to stay sober.

Although we witness frustration and heartache the documentaries for the most part do not compel an emotional connection in the viewer and the series feels somewhat dry. I can’t imagine an addict being captivated enough by mere information to stay still for the programs duration. But the information is helpful for those motivated to sit through it.

HBO is taking this public service effort seriously with online back up, DVD release, 4 independent films to be shown on HBO2, the initial telecast presented during a free-trial period to subscribers and the mini-documentaries on HBO on Demand.

Dianne Lawrence is an artist, freelance writer, and film reviewer living in Los Angeles. Visit her website here.

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