As many of us are spending more time at home and practicing social distancing, we may find that we are entertaining ourselves with more online entertainment. In that light, I offer a review of the Netflix series DOPE.
DOPE is a three season, 12-episode docu-crime drama filmed from the perspective of drug dealers, users and police officers. It claims to be a “documentary focusing on people living both sides of the law.” Each episode is between 30 and 50 minutes long, focusing on one location or drug.
For readers who viewed the Netflix series The Pharmacist, please know that this is much harsher and more graphic. The F-word is frequently used, there are scenes from strip clubs, as well as people injecting drugs and experiencing their effects. This series is not for the squeamish or faint of heart. Many will find the content offensive and dark.
In digging a little deeper, online discussions questioned whether or not the scenes were real or re-enacted. I had that same question. “Dealers” and “users” cover their faces with masks and bandanas to disguise their identities but were still recognizable. (However, there was a news story from several sources indicating the arrest of the stars of the series.) Police are shown doing surveillance, pursuit and making arrests. Dealers and users explain why they are participating in substance use.
“You’re too Innocent for this Game,” (Season 2, e. 2) focuses on methamphetamine, (also known as ice, crystal, ice cream) in Indiana. The episode starts in Terre Haute, Indiana with “shake and bake” meth labs. We are told that 80% of crime in Vigo County is drug-related. The narrator reports “thanks to low pay and poor prospects, people in rural areas are driven to seek refuge in the oblivion of meth.” In 1995 there were six known meth labs in Indiana. In 2015 there were more than 1500. But that number is rapidly decreasing as a new form of concentrated, more potent meth has started arriving from Mexico.
The focus of DOPE then shifts to a much more concentrated, potent, manufactured crystal meth imported from drug cartels to Gary, Indiana. The meth is distributed by Gary dealers using the Indiana highway system to small towns such as Muncie, Lafayette, and Lebanon. We learn some frightening facts: Crystal meth is ten times stronger than home-baked. The life expectancy of a crystal meth user is 38 years. Once people get started on meth, they just keep coming back. The Gary dealer brags, “Crystal meth is the drug of today. That’s what everybody’s using.” He says a person can stay high on the meth he sells for 48 hours.
Diana, a homeless woman in Muncie tells of her addiction to meth and what she experiences when she injects. But in 24 hours she will need more. When her next buy turns out to be rocks and not meth, she goes into withdrawal, feeling edgy, sick, horrid, miserable. A traffic stop in Terre Haute shows a man who has been a meth user for more than thirty years. The officer wonders if he will ever get clean. The recovery rate for meth is not very successful. We see the body spasms, obsessiveness and violence caused by meth.
Viewers get a sense of the desperation of those who are addicted, the blasé attitude and anxiety of those who distribute, and the frustration of the police. “You’re too Innocent for this Game,” provides a multi-faceted picture of meth trade in Indiana.
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Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.