TV review

Going Cold Turkey
Channel 4
21 February, 10.05pm
(From 20 to 23 February)


This programme follows a group of heroin addicts as they attempt to kick their habit at a detox clinic, writes Harry Shapiro.

Presented by Krishnan Guru-Murthy and addiction specialist Dr John Marsden, it is part of Channel 4’s week-long look at addictions to heroin, cannabis and drink.

In the run-up to the programme, there had been media speculation that this would be a sensational “let’s watch the addicts twitch and thrash” reality TV show. That it wasn’t was because they were undergoing a special kind of detox that involves sedating the patients to assuage the worst of the classic withdrawal symptoms.

But this is not the reality for most people undergoing detox, not least because they would not be able to afford the cost of treatment – something which this programme did not make clear.

As so often with programmes of this sort, the background stories to all three participants were frustratingly vague. Darren, for example, goes from angelic choirboy and wannabe pilot to heroin addict after having a  spliff and falling in with “the wrong crowd”. But Darren also confounds expectations by holding down a job and is praised by his boss as being one of the best workers in the factory.

Dr Marsden did the Blue Peter Guide to Heroin – “here’s a pile we seized earlier” – while another expert claimed that the seemingly small amount of heroin was worth £10,000 on the streets.

But commendably when going through the adulterants which cause problems for injectors, there was none of the rat poison mythology of which we often hear. Overall, staff and presenters dealt with patients and their families with care and sensitivity. An interesting start.

Harry Shapiro is head of publications for the charity Drugscope

  • Next week, a review of the full week of addiction programmes.

  • More from Community Care

    Comments are closed.