Filter Is Taking the “Free Methadone” Message to a Recovery Crowd

    Liquid Handcuffs: A Documentary to Free Methadone is a feature documentary, created by Filter Senior Editor Helen Redmond and Marilena Marchetti, that shines a light on the secretive world of methadone clinics. These clinics have been operating for over 40 years in the United States, but few people know what goes on inside.

    Methadone is the world’s most successful treatment for opioid addiction, and proven to cut the death rate by half or more when used long-term. So why is it still easier to get dangerously-adulterated street heroin than methadone?

    Mass media depictions of methadone are stigma-packed and fuel neighborhood NIMBY opposition to new clinics. In the era of an opioid-involved overdose crisis, this opposition is deadly as well as cruel.

    Liquid Handcuffs travels to six countries with very different methadone regimes⁠—Afghanistan, India, Portugal, Russia, the UK and the US⁠—in search of answers. An international cast of methadone patients, activists and healthcare providers explains the benefits of, and barriers to, getting the medication. The film explores the intersections of methadone with race, class, social control and stigma, with drug policy expert Deborah Small providing commentary on the politics of methadone.

    On Saturday, November 2 at 1 pm, Liquid Handcuffs is screening at the Reel Recovery Film Festival in New York City—the birthplace of methadone’s use as a treatment for opioid addiction. After the screening, a panel hosted by Filter will discuss the issues raised. Tickets are available here.

    It’s vital that a harm reduction-oriented, pro-methadone documentary is included in this recovery film festival, where most of the films screened promote abstinence.

    Within the recovery community, widespread prejudice against medication-assisted treatment (MAT) remains (although there are many positive and fast-changing attitudes, too). It is still not uncommon to hear methadone use described as “substituting one drug for another.” And in some 12-step groups, people on methadone aren’t allowed to speak because they aren’t “clean.”

    Liquid Handcuffs seeks to challenge the stigma and transform public opinion, and the recovery community is one important place for this discussion to happen.

    The Filter panel afterwards will feature Dr. David Frank, a methadone patient and researcher; Louis Jones, a methadone patient featured in the film; Filter Editor-in-chief Will Godfrey; and directors Marilena Marchetti and Helen Redmond. All are welcome.


    Screenshot from Liquid Handcuffs.

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