The documentary started promisingly enough. Initially it focuses on famous individuals who died as a result of prescription drug abuse. The main culprits included depressants, stimulants, and narcotics. Then, however, the director parades out a series of “experts” whose work has been largely discredited by the mainstream medical establishment—and for good reason. Dr. Peter Breggin, author of Listening to Prozac and other anti-medication tomes, has the audacity to claim that young people who are suffering from so-called neurochemical imbalances simply have to read a little Kierkegaard or Dostoevsky to “find themselves.” Elsewhere he’s on the record as stating that children with ADHD are “rambunctious,” wrongly asserting that drugs proven to alleviate the symptoms of the disorder do not work. Another researcher talks about her investigation into drug-related adverse events. She attributes the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S. to such adverse events, a claim that is patently false. Yet another physician criticizes Otsuka America Pharmaceutical for marketing Abilify to consumers, an anti-psychotic drug that psychiatrists have successfully used as an add-on to reduce anxiety in their depressed patients. She dismisses the notion that the drug may have value in this context.
I am no cheerleader for “Big Pharma,” but this film makes so many wackadoo connections between the FDA, the government, and the drug industry that it made me grateful to live in a world in which great advances in pharmacotherapy have been made for the countless people who are living with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other debilitating mental illnesses. American Addict is a confused documentary that deceives the viewer into thinking that it is going to primarily explore the burgeoning, widespread abuse of powerful prescription drugs like Oxycontin. Instead, it quickly deteriorates into an indictment of pharmacotherapy in general. At the end of the film, the producers urge patients to ask their doctors if there is an equally effective “alternative natural treatment” with which to treat their ailment. A responsible doctor will provide one if one exists, but many times it does not. The principle achievement of this film is that it succeeds in spreading misinformation, instilling fear in consumers, and illuminating how misunderstood the pharmaceutical industrial complex is.