Uprooting Addiction: Healing From The Ground Up

Uprooting Addiction: Healing from the Ground Up is a mosaic-like portrait of a single community coming together to take on one of the most urgent challenges of our times. From filmmaker Tory Estern Jadow comes a compelling look at the national drug addiction epidemic that continues to ravage local communities across the U.S., including the director's own in Northwest Connecticut. The film follows six people from varying walks of life — each affected by childhood trauma — who candidly share their personal stories of addiction and recovery. These testimonies are interwoven with uplifting, up-to-the-minute accounts from an equally diverse group of activists, officials, and experts, working tirelessly on the front lines of this unrelenting public health crisis.

  • Tory Estern Jadow
  • Tory Estern Jadow
  • Hope Payson
  • Tory Estern Jadow
  • Hope Payson
  • Edie Dao Schechter
  • Gabor Mate
    Key Cast
    Renowned speaker and best-selling author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, among others.
  • Maria Coutant Skinner
    Key Cast
  • Mark Jenkins
    Key Cast
  • Hope Payson
    Key Cast
  • Daryl McGraw
    Key Cast
  • Kelvin Young
    Key Cast
  • Pete Volkmann
    Key Cast
  • Ali Muney
    Rotten, First in Human, Independent Lens.
  • Tory Estern Jadow
  • Evan Estern
    Director of Photography
    Brotherhood: Life in the FDNY, Noise, No Kitchen Required
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Social Justice, Grass-roots activism, Personal Stories, Recovery, Social Change, Community, Family
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 4 minutes 47 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 1, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    195,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • NHdocs
    New Haven, CT
    United States
    August 22, 2020
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Tory Estern Jadow

Tory Estern Jadow is a 20-year veteran of the New York City film industry. She began her career working crew on feature films, commercials, music videos, and documentaries throughout the '80s and '90s. After receiving an MFA in fiction writing, Jadow moved to Connecticut where she freelances as a director, cinematographer, writer, and editor. "Uprooting Addiction" is her first feature-length project as a director.

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Director Statement

Our country is struggling with a drug overdose rate that has decreased life expectancy for the first time in decades. Overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined. A misunderstanding of pain management has led to a widespread over-prescription of highly addictive opiates, a pipeline drug that often results in the newly addicted seeking street drugs once prescriptions become unobtainable.

The potency of accessible painkillers like Fentanyl has become difficult to ascertain and regulate, leading to pervasive unintended overdose. In the state of Connecticut, accidental drug overdose deaths in 2017 exceeded 1000, and demonstrated an increase of nearly 300 percent in the past five years.

The reality of drug addiction is that it is ubiquitous and non-discriminatory, and what was once a problem buried by socioeconomic and racial biases, cloaked in stigma and shame, has reached critical mass. It is an epidemic.

At the center of Uprooting Addiction is the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study, a widely accepted methodology often referenced by medical and psychiatric professionals. The study analyzes the correlation between ten types of childhood trauma and long-term health outcomes, revealing a direct relationship between the two; the higher the exposure to childhood trauma, the worse the health outcomes are across an individual's lifetime. This includes a vulnerability to addiction, and other risky behaviors.

In the study of over 17,000 middle-class American adults of diverse ethnicity, up to 75 percent of people seeking treatment for addiction had experienced a traumatic event in their past. Corroborating this, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the American Medical Association, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders all define addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder that, like diabetes and heart disease, is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological forces.

Despite this, trauma treatment is rarely offered to adults struggling with addiction. Drug prevention efforts in the United States' "War on Drugs" have prioritized controlling the flow of and access to drugs, instead of focusing on why the demand for drugs is so high, and instead of attempting to understand why so many feel the need to self-medicate. Alternatively, harm reduction methods employ a realistic, compassionate approach to addiction, working with the understanding that for many, recovery is a process.

While we were making Uprooting Addiction during a three-year period from 2016 to 2019, we witnessed evidence that prevention and education are better solutions for our current drug epidemic than punishment and incarceration. Co-producer Hope Payson (LCSW, LADC), a national expert on the topics of trauma, neglect, and addiction, offers a model for treatment guiding patients through the painful and often transformative process of unearthing the past to understand the roots of addiction.

Her methodology also focuses on community, and many of her patients turn to community service as part of their recovery, understanding that compassion for those struggling with addiction fortifies the self-compassion that maintains their own sobriety.

Our film explores how a healthy community relies on the multifaceted participation of people working across the sectors — from medical fields, to social work and activism, to law enforcement. Moreover, it requires the willingness of its individuals to investigate their own biases and judgments, those that build stigma and shame around an epidemic from which no one is immune.