National Geographic Channel's Drugs, Inc. Television Series Review

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National Geographic Channel's Drugs, Inc. examines the $300 billion-a-year illicit drugs industry. Growers, users, dealers, law enforcement and the medical establishment are featured in such searing episodes as Meth, Heroin, Marijuana, Crack, Ecstasy and

Drugs, Inc. is one of the most fascinating TV documentary shows now populating the small screen. A staple on the National Geographic Channel, Drugs, Inc. charts the $300 billion-a-year illicit drug business, reporting on the production, trafficking and use of various narcotics and their devastating effect on society today.

Drugs, Inc. Debuts in 2010

Executively produced by Jonathan Hewes, Drugs, Inc. debuted over the National Geographic Channel on July 11, 2010. Kicking off the series were the episodes "Cocaine" and "Meth," telecast as a double feature on the road to pharmaceutical ruin.

The episode "Meth" – as in methamphetamine – proved to be an especially harrowing segment, exploring the exponential rise of one of the most addictive/destructive drugs ever devised by man. Meth is the "most abused hard drug on the planet," the narrator declares. The segment examines meth from all angles. First up is "Juan Lopez," who began his criminal career selling illegal drugs for a Los Angeles street gang known as the Mexican Mafia. Lopez later moved into the highly lucrative meth market, initially purchasing 13 pounds of the drug in Mexico for $45,000. Bringing the meth north to the United States, Lopez's stash carried a street value of over $500,000. In time, Lopez was clearing $50,000 a week and owned nine properties in the Los Angeles area. Caught on surveillance by law enforcement, Lopez eventually turned informer in order to avoid a life sentence, now living in fear that the ruthless Mexican drug cartels will one day catch up to him.

Steve Box of Missouri tells his sordid story of meth addiction, which resulted in the loss of his business and nearly his life. He's now clean and a member of a rural church whose congregation is comprised of some 50% former meth addicts. Many of the ex-users equate meth with the devil, claiming they witnessed demons while under the influence. Box, who authored a book titled Meth Equals Sorcery, hears from people from all walks of life – doctors, lawyers, businessmen, serial killers, et al. – who had fallen under the spell of meth addiction. 

Law enforcement is represented in the meth equation. Police are seen raiding a meth house in rural Missouri and rounding up "smurfers" – mass buyers of cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the making of crystal meth – in Athens, Tennessee. The smurfers, many of whom are teenagers and meth users themselves, can walk into a store and buy cold medicine tablets for $5. That package can then be sold to meth makers for $50, creating a huge profit incentive for the smurfers.

Also included in the report is the medical angle, including the condition known as "meth mouth," whereby users' teeth are rotted away by constant grinding and exposure to harsh chemicals contained in the drug. At Vanderbilt University Hospital, a meth cook whose homemade lab exploded is profiled. The man incurred horrendous burns over 70% of his body, and is now trying to recover from his ordeal. Meth lab explosions, a surgeon in the burn unit says, bring them a new patient every few weeks.

Drugs, Inc.: Crack

The episode "Crack," originally telecast on January 1, 2012, is another hard-hitting segment. Crack – as in crack cocaine – is a highly addictive drug, garnering its name from the "crackling" sound it makes when fired up and smoked. Two Chicago addicts, who need at least a $100 a day each to support their drug habit, are profiled as they fall deeper into addiction. Alexis, the 28-year-old female addict who looks twice her age, often works the streets as a prostitute, selling her body to buy crack and heroin. She doesn't want to quit her addiction, but merely manage it. "Better than sex," she declares in one scene after shooting up heroin.

"Crack" also features a dealer who provides his customers with the drug 24 hours a day. Business is so good that the man is sleep deprived, only able to catch a few hours shuteye here and there as clients phone him all hours of the day and night. He occasionally uses the drug himself, testing the crack and taking pride in the fact that he delivers a quality product to his clientele.

Alexis, a "poly drug" user addicted to both crack and heroin, shoots up in Chicago - National Geographic Channel

Drugs, Inc.: The Business of Addiction

Drugs, Inc. provides a searing, in-depth look at the business of illicit drugs. And make no mistake it is a business, generating an estimated $300 billion a year in profits. In addition to the episodes "Meth" and "Crack," Drugs, Inc. has also profiled other illegal drugs via the segments "Heroin" (7/12/10), "Marijuana" (7/12/10), "Hash" (1/1/12) and "Ecstasy" (1/8/12). Upcoming episodes will feature "Hallucinogens," "Ketamine," "Pill Nation" and "Designer Drugs." One can only wonder if producers will ever run out of subject matter, but given the "creativity" demonstrated in the past regarding illicit drugs, that outcome is highly doubtful.

  • This is your brain on drugs: picture an egg frying in a skillet.
  • This is your brain watching Drugs, Inc.: picture a healthy brain absorbing valuable information.

Drugs, Inc...Don't miss it.

Additional Reading & Top Image

  • Ten Best Drug Movies
  • Top image: National Geographic Channel's Drugs, Inc. logo - National Geographic Channel

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 


carol roach
Posted on Jan 13, 2012
Jerry Walch
Posted on Jan 13, 2012
Roberta Baxter
Posted on Jan 12, 2012