Science Series NOVA Tackles US Drug Crisis in PBS' "Addiction"

By Victoria Kim 09/20/18

The PBS documentary airs on October 17th.

still from ADDICTION
Photo via YouTube

The opioid crisis affects entire communities across the United States—yet there is still much about opioid abuse that is poorly understood.

A new documentary airing on PBS aims to change that by exploring the crisis from different angles.

ADDICTION, produced by NOVA, tackles both the science of addiction and the real impact that it’s had on Americans.

“Nearly every family in America has been affected by addiction—the biggest public health crisis facing us today—yet it remains poorly understood, largely stigmatized, and finding treatment can be a daunting process,” said Paula S. Apsell, Senior Executive Producer of NOVA. “NOVA helps cut through the confusion by presenting the latest science on what we now know is a treatable brain disorder, and not a hopeless diagnosis.”

The documentary explores harm reduction programs across North America and the impact they’ve had—from Insite in Vancouver, Canada (the first supervised injection facility in North America) to West Virginia, which has adopted a harm reduction approach to the drug problem there.

Under West Virginia’s public health commissioner Rahul Gupta, who will step down from his post in November, the state dispatched a free mobile unit and volunteer medical team to offer a host of harm reduction services including needle exchange, HIV and hepatitis testing, and free naloxone, (the anti-opioid overdose medication).

A major benefit to investing in a harm reduction approach is financial. Gupta says that with every $1 spent on harm reduction, we save $7 in medical costs, in addition to being able to guide people toward treatment.

“The costs are really unsustainable if we continue on this path, losing over half a trillion dollars a year for multiple years in our economy. We’ve got to be smart about addressing addiction,” said Gupta. “We have to find ways to prevent it from happening in the first place.”

Dr. Laura Kehoe oversees a unique program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston that offers medication to overdose survivors to control cravings.

“We’re seeing people come that day and engage in care, and the vast majority of them, 75 to 80% are returning,” she said. “Tragically, evidence-based treatments are not widely available in the U.S., and patients and families have to navigate a very broken system of care.”

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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