Last week, we talked about the 5 best books to read about the disease of addiction and the various treatment options available. While books are often the most intellectually stimulating choices, there are other ways to learn about addiction that provoke powerful emotions within the viewer. According to recent studies, visual effects can be 6000 times more effective than words. For some, reading a book can be less effective than watching a documentary or seeing a powerful movie. Here are some of our four favorite movies and documentaries about addiction, and what we believe makes them move powerful than others.

1.Requiem for a Dream. Directed by Darren Araonofsky, this is a movie that many find difficult to watch. In fact, several journalists reviewing the movie for the first time left because they found it so hard to sit through. The movie is about heroin and other drug addiction, portraying specific characters that unknowingly become involved in the world of prescription medication without meaning to become addicted. Towards the end, each character has lost his or her dream-as things began well, as they often do with addiction-and their dreams turned into nightmares.

Jared Leto, the main actor, has his arm amputated from overuse of heroin injections, his girlfriend, Jennifer Connelly, ends up prostituting herself for drugs out of sheer desperation. The saddest of all endings includes a lonely mother, who believing mistakenly that she will be on television through a fraudulent sales phone call, takes diet pills that cause her to go insane. The movie is depressing, but the imagery is powerful. As Style Weekly exclaimed in their review, “Requiem for a Dream is not a film that will have you shouting from the rooftops about how much you enjoyed it. This is not a movie to enjoy. This is a movie to experience.”

2.Vice. Vice is a series of documentaries on HBO that goes over a wide range of topics and delves into the world of addictive substances across the globe. “Vice delves into the realities of drugs and addiction, and the surrounding legislation (or lack thereof),” according to Top Documentary Films. The stories in Vice range from unregulated tobacco farms in Indonesia, where anti-smoking rhetoric and laws were never really enforced in the culture as it is here. Another story involves a recovering heroin addict in America who goes to all lengths to get clean and avoid withdrawal symptoms by using the Class A felony substance Ibogaine, which can cause hallucination.

The documentary shows the lengths people will go to overcome their addictions, and the dark paths that otherwise normal people around the world follow in order to pursue their drug of choice. “The immersive documentary style and gritty subject matter combine beautifully to portray heartbreaking stories in a very genuine way,” according to the article. Furthermore, legislation pertaining to addiction is discussed and debated in this documentary series.

3.When a Man Loves a Woman. This is a classic, heartbreaking, but heartwarming movie starring Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia. It is about a woman who suffers from alcoholism and hits her bottom point when she falls out of the shower, breaks the glass door, and her daughter finds her bleeding on the floor. Her husband, who has always supported her and is not much of a drinker, recognizes at that point that her drinking is out of control and sends her to rehab. During this experience, she learns a lot about herself, her disease, and the codependent type of relationship that she and her husband had without her even realizing it.

As discussed in a previous blog, codependency in addiction is a major problem for both the addict and the people surrounding the addict. Many times when addicts begin to recover, they no longer wish to be taken care of. Andy Garcia had to learn his new role as a husband and equal partner, rather than a caretaker of a sick wife. The movie is powerful for its message about alcoholism recovery, and codependency in relationships.

4.Traffic. Traffic is a powerful movie starring Michael Douglas, who plays a drug enforcement officer caught in his own personal battle at home. His daughter, a former straight A student and well-behaved girl, becomes involved with drugs and alcohol, and it leaves Douglas in a difficult position. He has found it easy in prior circumstances to judge and prosecute those who use and abuse drugs and alcohol, but the story changes when it becomes about his own daughter.

This movie is important for families who struggle with a family member who has an addiction. When we think of addiction, we often think of “other people” or “homeless people” on the street who have no sense of self-control or respect. We rarely think that the addict may be our own child, who in every way had so much going for them. If anything, the movie captures how deadly addiction is once it takes a hold of someone, and how powerful denial is for those who don’t want to see loved ones get hurt.

Movies can help make an emotional connection to your addiction, and the addiction of others. Because movies can be so powerful, and books can be more technical, it may behoove you or a friend to watch a documentary or movie about addiction and observe how it begins, starts, and ends. Though movies and documentaries can be exaggerated and embellished, the central message surrounding them is constant. Addiction is a disease of the brain that affects the addict, those around them, and does not discriminate upon race, sex, gender, or class. Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone and everyone.

Do you suffer from an addiction to alcohol or drugs? Have you watched a movie recently that spoke to you and made you reconsider your addictive tendencies and need to get help? Don’t wait. Contact Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health today. Call 949-556-4723 and get started on your roadmap towards recovery now.