Untreated & Unheard: The Addiction Crisis in America
We don’t know how we missed this compelling documentary when it first hit the ether. After all, it’s not only our kinda investigation, but it’s backed by our kinda players. No matter. We’re on it now. And if you haven’t yet, you’d be wise to be too. The flick’s called Untreated & Unheard: The Addiction Crisis in America. And it’s as tragic as it is hopeful.
It’s also one of the most compelling pieces of crisis shooting as we’ve ever seen. Produced and developed by Paramount’s in-house branded content studio in conjunction with the great good folks from Partnership to End Addiction, Untreated & Unheard premiered on the Pluto TV Documentaries channel back in November ‘22. It’s main motive was clear: address America’s scarcity of addiction treatment via the lives of Americans themselves.
We wanted the doc to “transport viewers beyond the ‘doom and gloom’ statistics,” said Partnership CEO Creighton Drury, “[and] into the living rooms of individuals and families touched by this disease – families who didn’t know where to turn when their loved one was struggling with substance misuse.”
We also wanted to “make it clear that families should never have to navigate addiction alone, in isolation.”
Advocating for the Untreated & Unheard
Tonia Ahern comes from among the individuals and families featured in Untreated & Unheard. And she comes from it the hard way too. But that hasn’t prevented the New Jersey mother from devoting the past decade to educating, supporting and empowering families, “while also advocating for better and more integrated systems of addiction care.”
Then again, when a loving mom sees that “as many as 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder and yet only one in 10 are able to access care,” she’s bound to move a mountain or two. That’s especially true if her loved one wasn’t one of the 10.
“Despite my best efforts, [my son] Rory faced barrier after barrier and ultimately lost his life to a substance use disorder when the systems of care failed him repeatedly,” said Ahern, who now volunteers as one of the Partnership’s parent coaches.
But it wasn’t just the healthcare system; it was the social system, beginning with the stigma that continues to be associated with addiction.
“Our culture has made those struggling with substance use disorder feel ashamed and left in the dark,” she continued, and that also includes “their families.”
“Whether individually, a relative, a friend, or a colleague, no one is immune,” said Bill Koenigsberg, whose Horizon Media was indispensable to the making of Untreated & Unheard. “But everyone can take the necessary action to ensure we begin to address the issues without stigma.”
One of the ways to take action is to take back the narrative. And that seems to be just what Koenigsberg and company have done.
Take Back the Narrative
“The unfortunate shame associated with drug addiction gave rise to the ‘untreated and unheard’ title of the documentary,” adds the Horizon CEO. “We have a collective responsibility to make sure this story – the often muted stories of those living through addiction and how they are helping their loved ones – is no longer unheard and begins to inspire many more to hope and triumph.”
Partnership to End Addiction
As you might suspect, this isn’t the only compelling addiction-fighting visual put out by the Partnership. In fact, their new Messages of Hope video series aims to help addicts and their families all year long.
With the Partnership’s exemplary track record, they’ll undoubtedly do it too. After all, they’ve hatched some of the most successful and enduring anti-addiction campaigns ever assembled.
Who can ever forget the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” spot?
“This is your brain . . .” An unbroken egg.
“This is drugs . . . “ A hot pan.
“This is your brain on drugs.” The egg frying in the pan.
“That ad became the organization’s calling card,” wrote L.A. Times reporter Pamela Warrick. “The organization that began with a $300,000 grant from the Associated Advertising Agencies of America and has done more to mobilize volunteer talent against a single social problem than perhaps any other.”
Warrick wrote that way back in ‘96; since then Untreated & Unheard is just the latest in a very long line of compelling campaigns.
In fact, at the time of Warrick’s writing, the Partnership had “created, aired, printed, skywritten and song-and-danced some $2 billion worth of anti-drug public service messages.” Adding that much of the content was made possible by the equally great good Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Partnership to End Addiction is still at it too. And, like Healing Properties, they’ll be at it till the crisis ends. So if you, your family and/or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, please give us a ring. You can also find free tools, help and hope through the Partnership to End Addiction.