Coming Clean is a comprehensive overview of the opioid crisis in the United States, circa late 2020, through the lens of humane efforts in Utah and Colorado to take on the crisis. The documentary features interviews with recovering addicts and political leaders on the frontlines. The stated goal of measures against the opioid epidemic is to encourage treatment instead of punishment, bring profiteers to justice, and reign in the absurd amount of cash flowing in from pharmaceutical companies targeting vulnerable populations.
Operation Rio Grande is highlighted, in which Salt Lake City, Utah law enforcement rounded up homeless people in a coordinated effort across agencies, and those suffering from addiction were offered treatment instead of jail. Drugs are rampant in prison, so it’s unlikely anyone is going to get well while incarcerated. This style of interdiction could go a long way toward helping people recover.
“…a comprehensive overview of the opioid crisis in the United States…”
We see the crisis from many points of view as there are interviews with addicts, their families, and even government officials wade into the fray. The most dynamic figure on this stage is Mississippi attorney Mike Moore. Once the Attorney General of the state, he now takes on big pharma and has a track record of success. He’s won in battles against Johnson & Johnson and most recently Purdue.
While the efforts are heroic and inspiring, here’s the thing: this is all incredibly depressing and exhausting. There are no quick fixes. These efforts are more like running a marathon than a sprint—the eyes of activists and those in recovery shine with the zeal of the true believer. If you can’t rise to that level of unassailable faith in the solution and long-term commitment to implement it, that feels like failure. The fact is that many people will need to recover again and again, and staying clean is as much a matter of luck and existential circumstances as it is intention and effort. Asking the average person to hang in there and keep cheerleading when addicts repeatedly relapse is tough.
The film’s website speaks of the “Coming Clean community,” which has a whiff of cult-like hyper-enthusiasm. Do you have the bandwidth for yet another crucially important cause? Do you have the money to donate? Without a doubt, it’s an effort worth making, but in the middle of a global pandemic, in the most contentious election year in generations, with the country ready to square off red versus blue in civil conflict, can this issue possibly crawl to the top of the stack of daily horrors to be dealt with? The timing just couldn’t be worse.
"…an indictment of capitalism run rampant...profit taking precedence over human life."