Afghanistan is the world's biggest producer of opium, and all attempts to foil this unfortunate status have been met with dismal failure. In the new investigative documentary Afghan Overdose, reporters from the Russia Today news organization set out to determine the current state of their opium trade, and what steps are being taken to curb its continued dominance in the region.
From the start of their travels into the country, viewers can detect a tactile sense of danger and dread. Many locals are aggressively opposed to the presence of the reporting team, and payoffs are frequently required to ensure their cooperation.
Their first stop is Pole Sokhta, a camp which is populated solely by the area's most downtrodden opium addicts. Spectators stand above them and stare in curiosity and horror; some of them testify that such a public display was unthinkable only a short time ago when the region was under Taliban rule.
We witness the tactics of local authorities at they raid drug dens and conduct searches on frightened citizens. In each instance, small quantities of opium are confiscated from these suspects. Some hide the product in their shoes while others are shown stocking the largely empty gas tanks of their cars with tightly packed blocks of it.
We enter a rehabilitation clinic, and hear of the challenges which face the medical professionals who work there. Their first obstacle lies in convincing practicing addicts to engage in their treatment services - which includes 15 days of trauma-inducing withdrawals. Following a six week rehab period, they then assist them in finding decent work and a way of life on the outside in order to avoid relapse.
Afghanistan's opium epidemic has implications that reach far beyond the individual addicts or the efforts of local law enforcement. The trade affects the lives of citizens throughout the remainder of the world as well, and also helps to fuel and fund the activities of terrorist organizations like ISIS.
In 2001, the United States allocated seven billion dollars in an attempt to help the country eradicate their opium industry. Yet Afghan poppy fields continue to flourish in size and significance year after year. Many of the reasons behind this are frustratingly elusive, but they're the central focus of this powerful film.