18 Best Drug Addiction Documentaries on Netflix (May 2024)

You might just know someone, close or distant, who has struggled with drug addiction at one point in time. It could be a distant relative or someone you went to school with, but the sheer probability of it just shows that this situation is getting worse with each passing year. Yes, there are a lot of places that offer help/information regarding such matters. However, there are also a lot of stigmas surrounding the same, with people not understanding that no one wants to be an addict.

It’s often just a slight misjudgment on their part that leads them down this dark road. This could’ve easily been avoided if they had a proper understanding of the aftermath of their actions. Netflix offers some brutally honest narcotics-related documentaries that delve into the same, ranging from those that touch upon addiction to those that explore the infamous concept of the war on drugs.

18. Intervention (2005)

This docuseries is created by Sam Mettler and showcases heavy addicts (drug/alcohol/substance) and people with other serious disorders, including celebrities, who are given an ultimatum by certified interventionists. They can either undergo a therapy session or lose contact with family and friends, and other privileges. The series shows graphic drug/substance abuse along with interviews of the addicts’ near and dear ones, addressing the pain and trauma that drug addiction breeds not just in the addict but in those around him/her/them. You can stream ‘Intervention’ here.

17. High: Confessions of an Ibiza Drug Mule (2021)

This true-crime docuseries offers a first-hand account of Michaella McCollum and how she spiraled into the world of drugs in Peru. She and her partner-in-crime, Melissa Reid, both hailing from England and later addressed as the ‘Peru Two,’ were caught and arrested on August 6, 2013, at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Peru while trying to smuggle approximately 11kg of cocaine that roughly amounted to EUR 1.5 million. They were flying in from Ibiza, Spain. McCollum was 19 years old at the time. ‘High: Confessions of an Ibiza Drug Mule’ can be streamed here.

16. The Pharmacist (2020)

Directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, this docuseries follows small-town pharmacist Dan Schneider, hailing from Poydras, Louisiana, who decided to find the culprits responsible for the murder of his son Danny, who was killed in 1999 while he was buying cocaine. His painstaking efforts not only led to the arrest of the killer but eventually brought down a private pharmaceutical company that was manufacturing OxyContin, an opioid. How Schneider pulled off this mammoth task is what we find out in this 4-part series. You can stream ‘The Pharmacist’ here.

15. Take Your Pills: Xanax (2022)

Blair Foster directs a revealing documentary that explores the dual nature of widely prescribed anti-anxiety medication—a potential cure for some and a curse for others. The film delves into the experiences and insights of both patients and experts, offering a nuanced examination of the complex relationship between mental health treatment and the impact of these medications. With a critical lens, the documentary sheds light on the multifaceted perspectives surrounding anti-anxiety medication, prompting viewers to reconsider the role and implications of such widely prescribed pharmaceuticals. You can watch it here.

14. Highland: Thailand’s Marijuana Awakening (2017)

Every country has a different set of cultural, political, and economic scenarios. There might be some gestures that are considered cool or acceptable in your country but might not be so welcoming in another. A similar case follows for marijuana as well. It might not be such an important issue for the American economy, but it paints a whole new picture for Thailand. ‘Highland: Thailand’s Marijuana Awakening’ follows the events that led to its legalization in the country and how it affected the country’s political and economic climate. This documentary presents the opportunity to be a great learning experience about both weed and white elephants! You can watch it here.

13. The Business of Drugs (2020)

As the title suggests, ‘The Business of Drugs’ is a documentary series that aims to understand the origins and actual impact of how different kinds of tightly controlled substances work. In other words, it follows a former CIA analyst, Amaryllis Fox, as she investigates the economics of six illegal narcotics to reveal the way they make people lose all inhibitions and thus partake in extremely risky endeavors. This six-part mini-production also focuses on aspects like farming, smuggling, and sales to demonstrate that drugs are never just fun and games; they go way beyond and affect more than just the people using them. You may watch the documentary here.

12. The Legend of Cocaine Island (2019)

Treasure hunts are awesome. You get to play Sherlock, follow clues, and find cool stuff. It seems a very entertaining game for children, but some people do these things for a living. Every year, expeditions are launched to look for some hidden treasure or discover the truth behind a myth. ‘The Legend of Cocaine Island’ follows the story of a man who goes on a quest to find cocaine worth $2 million! But, like any other treasure hunt, the journey to this will be rife with troubles as well. Will he be able to overcome them and change his life, or will he finally give up? To find out, you can watch the documentary here.

11. Take Your Pills (2018)

Everyone is addicted to something, whether it be food, substances, or just little things like music or reading. But while most of the world is busy trying to keep their children away from marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, another form of drug is gradually taking over their lives. It’s no secret that today’s world is of cut-throat competition, and one needs to keep one’s wits about oneself if one hopes to survive the pressure. Thus, either to cope or for a boost, a lot of people have often found solace in prescription drugs, especially Adderall. Some might believe that these aren’t as bad because they are not as hard a drug as, say, heroin, but ‘Take Your Pills’ proves them wrong. You can watch ‘Take Your Pills’ here.

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10. Drug Lords (2018-)

After watching so many tales about antiheroes, we know that things never end so well for them. No matter how rich they get, how many people they kill in the process, and what ends of the Earth they run to escape justice, karma never fails to deliver. ‘Drug Lords’ follows the stories of such people — from the ones who have been the kings of the trade to the ones who haven’t acted as more than simple rooks to carry out business for some other titan they serve. Everyone has a role to play in the drug business, and when the time comes, everyone will pay their dues. You may watch the documentary here.

9. Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy (2021)

Directed by Stanley Nelson, ‘Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy’ takes a look into the 1980s, focusing on the crack cocaine epidemic. Spanning eight chapters, the documentary sheds light on how crack, a cheaper, more potent, and more dangerous version of cocaine, became a prominent drug in the United States, as well as how its victims became the target of America’s war on drugs. The documentary underscores the irony in how the American government found it acceptable to have a considerable portion of the young generation addicted to drugs if that gave them success in their war against communism in South America. Nelson builds the core narrative of the documentary through interviews of former dealers, users, and journalists, whose commentaries on the subject paint a harrowing picture of the unfair persecution of people belonging to minority communities. You may watch ‘Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy’ here.

8. Heroin(e) (2017)

Opioids are tricky; they aren’t legal in any way, shape, or form unless medically prescribed by healthcare providers, yet they continue to be a part of most communities. That’s precisely what ‘Heroin(e)’ profiles by following three women – a fire chief, a judge, and a street missionary – as they attempt to battle the harrowing opioid epidemic in Huntington, West Virginia (the epicenter of the crisis). Directed by Elaine McMillion Sheldon, this Oscar-nominated film gives us an authentic look into the reality of heroin, with a particular focus on the devastating cycle of its abuse. You can watch the documentary here.

7. Recovery Boys (2018)

Also helmed by Elaine McMillion Sheldon, ‘Recovery Boys’ is a documentary that centers around four men attempting to reinvent themselves and reenter society as sober individuals after years of drug use. They’d forged an unbreakable bond while recovering together in a farming-based rehab, meaning that they support one another every step of the way in the real world as well. Honestly, with the different yet similar stories of identity, survival, temptation, and resilience, this 2018 movie can only be described as a masterpiece. Feel free to check out the documentary here.

6. Murder Mountain (2018)

This one is for those who would like to educate themselves on drugs while watching a true-crime documentary at the same time. Set against the misty backdrop of the Humboldt County of North Carolina, ‘Murder Mountain’ essentially focuses on the marijuana industry in the region as well as the murders that transpired there. Several people have also disappeared from here, but the worst part is that most of these cases remain unsolved. One such matter is that of Garret Rodriguez’s mysterious yet horrific death, which this six-episode documentary delves into while waking us through the cut-throat marijuana business of this place. You can watch ‘Murder Mountain’ here.

5. Dope (2017)

Vices cannot be conquered in a day — a battle has to be fought, if not won, on a daily basis. Every day, you need to tell yourself that what you are doing is worth it and push yourself to work harder. At least, this is what law enforcement officials do. Even amid an endless battle with drugs, where they might often feel like they are on the losing side, these people don’t falter; they keep pushing on. But they are not the only ones involved. There are addicts, especially recovering ones, who have to take a course that might as well be personal hell in order to save themselves from imminent doom. The efforts of these people are encouraging, but is it enough to survive? ‘Dope’ answers that. You may watch it here.

4. Narcoworld: Dope Stories (2019)

There are few times in life when you get to learn about an issue from both sides. ‘Narcoworld: Dope Stories’ provides viewers with one of those rare occasions where it features the perspective of the drug distributors as well as the law enforcement while talking about the global drug trade. Spanning several countries across the globe, the show’s depiction of different perspectives on the same story, especially one as riveting as real-life drug trafficking, is one you cannot miss out on! You may watch ‘Narcoworld: Dope Stories’ here.

3. Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics (2020)

Given how sensational the idea of Hollywood celebrities using hallucinogenic drug usage has always been, the easy approach to the subject that ‘Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics’ is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air. The film boasts the appearance of stars like Carrie Fisher, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, and many, many more, with Nick Offerman acting as the host. The documentary movie is full of anecdotes that are sure to fascinate those who have been curious about the topic for a long time. You can watch the documentary here.

2. SanPa: Sins of the Savior (2020)

Italian documentary series ‘SanPa: Sins of the Savior’ details the life of Vincenzo Muccioli, an entrepreneur who tried his best to help various addicts during a heroin crisis. Though his actions helped him earn the love of many in the public, they also made him subject to various controversies. With one too many criminal actions being linked to Muccioli, the man’s life and motivations have become shrouded in a mystery that the show hopes to explore. Feel free to check out the documentary here.

1. How to Change Your Mind (2022)

Based on the eponymous 2022 book by Michael Pollan, ‘How to Change Your Mind’ looks at various drugs in a capacity not for harm but for healing. Specifically, the series focuses on various psychedelic drugs and how the concept of psychedelic therapy can perhaps be the answer for those looking for a way to better their mental health. While still not a widely accepted idea, the possible applications outlined in the show may just change one’s perspective when it comes to drugs. You can check out the documentary here.

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