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In 1948 the first National Film Board (NFB) documentary in Canada about illegal drugs, trafficking, and addiction was produced. The documentary is titled Drug Addict, and was directed by Robert Anderson. This paper provides a socio-historical context for the documentary Drug Addict. Viewing the film through the lens of Canadian history gives readers a better context to understand the claims and representations in the film about law enforcement, people who use illegal drugs and treatment. To examine Drug Addict, a socio-historical analysis and case study were conducted. This project's qualitative methodological framework is consistent with its critical theoretical perspective, drawing from Stuart Hall's perspectives on visual and textual representation and cultural criminology. Drug Addict is a significant documentary because it provides insight into early foundational law enforcement discourses and practices about illegal drugs, addiction, and treatment, including obstacles to drug substitution and maintenance programs. It also highlights the emergence of psychiatry as a new knowledge producer in the area of drug treatment. The film also transmits ideas about the criminal nature of addicts and the need for punitive criminal justice control. Drug Addict captures some past and contemporary tensions related to Canadian drug policy. The film also provides another lens to understand some of the foundational frameworks of Canadian drug policy such as the dominance of criminal justice, and its practices of knowledge production, the resistance espoused by institutions to diverse models of treatment such as drug maintenance programs, and the power of visual representation. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Susan Boyd. A Canadian perspective on documentary film: Drug Addict. The International journal on drug policy. 2013 Nov;24(6):589-96

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PMID: 24012438

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