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Review of "Methadonia"

By Michel Negroponte (Director)
First Run Features, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Dec 19th 2006

Michel Negroponte's documentary about Methadone users is very personal.  He follows several users who go to a Manhattan group, the New York Center for Addiction Treatment Services, on Broadway and Houston, just next to NYU.  They talk about their drug experiences, their regrets, and their problems, as well as their hopes for the future.  These women and men have lives that are in ruins.  Many of the people we see have been addicted to various drugs for decades, and the prospect for their recovery is not good.  Others do manage to stop taking methadone, but the documentary makes clear how difficult it is to do this.  According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, "Methadone is a rigorously well-tested medication that is safe and efficacious for the treatment of narcotic withdrawal and dependence," but most of the users in Methadonia take methadone with other drugs, especially benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Klonopin.  We see several users nodding off while they are being interviewed, stopping in mid-sentence, falling asleep as they sit.  It is horrifying to watch.

Negroponte emphasizes the shattering of lives with haunting background music, close-ups of the junkies, and occasional visual effects.  But most of the emotional punch of the documentary comes from the stories of the people as they develop over the 18 months.  He also shows some success stories, with people who have managed to either keep totally clean or stay on a stable dose of methadone.  On the DVD, there is a follow-up section showing some of the people from the documentary later on.  The characters we meet are often quite likeable and there are some humorous moments.  Yet for the most part, Methadonia is a disturbing look into the world of drug addiction.  It is an excellent resource to use in college courses, but there is a great deal of cursing in the documentary, and this may make it inappropriate for showing in high schools.  There's a short primer, "Addiction and Methadone 101," on the DVD, which is also informative. 








© 2006 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.