Our Favorite Opioid Documentary [& Others As Well]


The opioid crisis can be difficult for people to fully grasp. Even those directly affected by it may have questions about how it all started and how the opioid overdose rates got so alarmingly high.

Documentaries can help answer many of them and present the facts and stories of people affected by it. Discover the best opioid documentary to watch tonight and several other alternatives to understand all the layers of the opioid epidemic.

The Crime of the Century: Best to Understand How We Got Here

The Crime of the Century is a two-part HBO original documentary made by Alex Gibney, an Oscar-winning director and producer.

The movie primarily aims to shed light on the aggressive marketing campaign that pharmaceutical companies launched to promote these products and how this directly ties into the extent of the current opioid epidemic.

The first episode is dedicated to Purdue Pharma and its drug Oxycontin. It details how the Sackler family collaborated with Center for Disease Control officials to get this drug approved for wider use. Gibney provides evidence the company did so even though the company lacked the data to prove it’s truly non-addictive, and in some cases, even encouraged doctors to increase patient dosages recklessly.

Part two of the documentary focuses on the fentanyl push and the efforts of Insys Therapeutics to bribe doctors to overprescribe this drug to patients, which has created a second wave of the epidemic.

Why Watch This Documentary?

The Crime of the Century is more than a film about the opioid epidemic. It takes a closer look at everything that failed and eventually led to the opioid crisis:

  • How big pharma pushed their drugs for profits
  • Legislation that was created to protect the companies rather than the people
  • How some doctors were complicit or painfully unaware of the risks

It’s a key film to watch if you want to understand the tight-knit relationship between the medical system, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies.

The Crime of the Century looks at all the pieces of the opioid crisis and tries to answer a key question many recovering addicts and their family members still have:

“How did we get here?”

Film Details

  • Type: Two-part mini-series
  • Runtime: 3 hours, 51 minutes total
  • Release: 2021
  • Where to watch: HBO Max

Other Documentaries to Watch

Here are some additional documentaries that can reveal other aspects of the opioid crisis:

This Might Hurt: The Best for Understanding Chronic Pain

This Might Hurt looks at chronic pain and follows three patients and their fight to find a way to manage it. Move view eventually follows them to a treatment program led by Dr. Howard Schubiner.

It dives deeper into the concept of pain and to what extent some people are willing to go to find relief. The movie also presents a unique way to manage chronic pain through re-training how the brain responds to pain signals.

It’s a gruesome movie at times, but it can offer insight into behavioral sciences and their role in drug addiction recovery.

Film Details

  • Directors: Kent Bassett, Marion Cunningham
  • Type: Feature Film
  • Runtime: 1h 23m
  • Release: 2019
  • Where to watch: Eventive, or by purchasing it from the official site

Recovery Boys: Best for Learning About Opioid Addiction and Recovery

Recovery Boys sheds a spotlight on opioid addiction and how it affects both the people who abuse drugs and their families.

The film follows the stories of four men as they enter the Jacob’s Ladder residential recovery program shortly after detoxing from prescription opioids and heroin.

The documentary doesn’t shy away from showcasing the crushing struggles people face in recovery, both at a physical and psychological level. But it’s also a story about how drug addicts can lean on each other while in these programs.

Recovery Boys is an especially important documentary to watch for the families of those in recovery. While they may never fully understand the suffering of their loved ones, the stories of these four young men may help them better grasp what addiction recovery genuinely looks like.

Film Details

  • Director: Elaine McMillion Sheldon
  • Type: Feature Film
  • Runtime: 1h 29m
  • Release: 2018
  • Where to watch: Netflix

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed: About Keeping Drug Companies Accountable

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is a biographical documentary about Nan Goldin, an artist and activist who launched a campaign against the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma.

The movie details Goldin’s own struggles with addiction and her fight to reclaim her life. After an almost fatal overdose of fentanyl in 2017, she founded the P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) advocacy group to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic and hold those responsible accountable.

It’s an empowering story that shows the unfiltered dangers of drug abuse and overdose yet teaches viewers that it’s still possible to reclaim control.

Film Details

  • Director: Laura Poitras
  • Type: Feature Film
  • Runtime: 2h 2m
  • Release: 2022
  • Where to watch: HBO Max

This Is What Happens to Your Brain on Opioids: The Best Short Film about Opioid Effects

This Is What Happens to Your Brain on Opioids is a short film documentary that helps viewers understand how drugs can lead to addiction.

The animation portrays the effects that opioids such as heroin or prescription drugs have on the human brain and how prolonged use can make people addicted.

Though it doesn’t directly center on the opioid crisis, the documentary is an essential piece of the opioid education puzzle and helps more people understand the complex chemical reactions drugs like OxyContin have.

Film Details

  • Director: Lily Fang
  • Type: Short Film
  • Runtime: 4m 37s
  • Release: 2017
  • Where to watch: YouTube

Final Thoughts

Documentaries about the opioid crisis help increase awareness about the many facets of this phenomenon.

And with awareness may come more compassion for those addicted, better prevention measures for patients, and stronger legislation to ensure such an epidemic never happens again.

If you or a loved one is battling opioid addiction, we can provide a network of recovery specialists to support your addiction treatment.

Learn more about our remote services here, or schedule a consultation with a Curednation specialist today.


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