Louis Theroux: Dark States – Heroin Town

Louis gets us Theroux the week with another gripping documentary exploring a town that has been ravaged by a heroin epidemic.

“It’s kind of like a stick of dynamite that’s going to do absolutely nothing in the world except make you feel as good as you can possibly feel.”  That is how Nick, a lakeside dweller, a father of a twelve-year-old son, and a heroin addict, describes his drug of choice.

Louis Theroux is in Huntington, West Virginia and it is clear to see that the cause of this epidemic is not extreme deprivation, but rather a chain of recurring situations. Firstly, an accident or illness which is treated with prescriptions of strong opiates. Secondly, their medication is cut off by their doctors then, feeling dependent, they turn to easily obtainable heroin. The blame, can be seen to land on the huge American pharmaceutical companies, that thought more of money than safety at the time.

In a similar style to Theroux’s previous documentaries, the complete lack of a rose-tinted shield accompanied with the calm but awkward style of his questioning allows for the subject’s stories to be hard hitting in their absolute state of realism. Each story has similar background, and it is clear to see the bottom line: that addiction is an illness, a disease that can change your life in seconds. It sees no distinction in class, age or race when the statistics in Huntington show one in four adults are dependent on opiates, the rate of fatal overdoses is thirteen times the national average and one in ten babies are born dependent. Whilst, others struggle to get honesty out of their interviewees, Louis Theroux treats every single subject with unbiased respect, showing that human life is drama enough without the need of a climax or dramatic music. When our television screens are mostly occupied with sunny, happy versions of American Life, this documentary shows the darker, unscripted side.

Hannah Simpson-Orlebar

Image: BBC