"Dopesick Nation" Chronicles Struggle To Find Addiction Treatment

By Victoria Kim 09/18/18

Dopesick Nation follows Frankie and Allie as they seek treatment for two drug addicts in South Florida.

dopesick nation
Frankie and Nate Photo via YouTube

A new docu-series shows the day-to-day struggle of finding help for people with substance use disorder.

The first episode of Dopesick Nation, a new 10-part series that premiered on VICELAND last Wednesday (Sept. 12), follows Frankie and Allie as they seek treatment for Nate and Kelly, two drug users in South Florida.

Frankie and Allie, who are in recovery themselves, explain the root of South Florida’s current heroin and fentanyl crisis—going back to the feds’ crackdown on prescription pills and the subsequent rise of heroin and fentanyl. 

South Florida’s recovery industry is among the most notorious—people flock there to get help because it is “brimming with treatment centers on every corner,” Allie explains. Many are “predatory” in nature.

"I have family in South Florida and they started to tell me about this billion dollar rehab industry. It seemed like everyone down there had a finger in that pie. It was a big, dark, open secret," producer Ian Manheimer told The Fix via email. "In my research, I met a lot of people who were making piles of fast money in this industry. Their incentives weren't necessarily aligned with those of their clients and it led to a lot of horrible things happening."

The documentary follows Frankie as he tries to get Nate into treatment. He secured a scholarship for Nate, but they must wait for a bed to open up before he can be admitted. Until then, all Nate can do is wait and do his best to survive, one day at a time. “I don’t know if I can make it through another night,” he says as he is forced to wait longer than expected. “I fucking hate everything about what I’m doing.”

Viewers can feel the frustration of this waiting game. It’s clear that Nate is sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. He’s ready for change, and to be present for his son.

Frankie asks him, “Are you tired, and just done man?” Nate says, “It’s more of a mental/emotional thing, not as much of a physical thing like my body’s tired or my arms hurt, or I don’t have any veins left—you know, all those different reasons why people would stop getting high. Just emotionally and mentally drained as fuck, you’re like just done. It’s never been this bad before for some reason. I just want to have my family back.”

Nate’s experience is like any other individual who is ready to quit, but can’t stop. After using for so long, Nate is physically addicted to heroin. If he can’t get professional help, the only thing that will make him feel better is heroin or Suboxone, a medication for opioid addiction.

“This is a God-given opportunity. I’m not supposed to have this. And for whatever reason, I got it,” Nate said about the scholarship that Frankie got for him. “I need to take advantage of it because I can’t keep doing this anymore. This can’t define who I am. This isn’t me. Because I have more potential than that,” he says before he hits his pipe.

At the end of the first episode, Nate is finally admitted to a treatment center, and is out in 30 days. He looks different—healthier and happier.

Kelly, on the other hand, is harder for Allie to keep track of. She’s enthusiastic about recovery one day, but is no where to be found the next. But Allie, who met Kelly on her path to recovery, isn’t about to let go of her friend. “I’ll never give up on Kelly. Unless Kelly gives up on Kelly,” she says.

As the series continues, we'll meet more young men and women at the height of their crisis, Manheimer says. "Maybe they're prostituting. Maybe they're stealing. They're homeless. Allie and Frank will have to convince them, against all odds, to get into detox before someone else takes the scholarship they have lined up." 

Dopesick Nation is about showing the raw reality of people's experiences, without labels or judgment. "We wanted to make something real," says Manheimer. "TV is typically the domain of heroes and monsters and we don't believe in either."

Dopesick Nation airs on VICELAND Wednesdays at 10 pm. Watch the first episode here.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr