Prescription Thugs

Year: 2015
Production Co: Naked Edge Films
Director: Chris Bell
Writer: Josh Alexander

Like the recent documentary Why I'm Not on Facebook, this non-fiction account of the fallout of legal drugs isn't really about the drug companies or the medical corruption/laziness that puts truckloads of medication in the hands of people who don't need it, it's about the filmmaker Chris Bell and his family – it just happens to have interesting tidbits from that other stuff in it.

It's also an erstwhile sequel to Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Bell's 2008 film about steroids and performance enhancing drugs. In that film he talked about he and his brothers' love for the strongmen of the 70s and 80s like Arnold Schwarzenegger and their dreams of being pro wrestlers. His older brother Mike (aka Mad Dog) actually had some success in the WWF and ECW, but as Prescription Thugs shows, Mike Bell battled substance abuse most of his life until he was found dead at 37 at a California rehab facility.

The film is Chris' account of his brother's battle and death, other figures from the wrestling industry talking about their own addictions and descent (one monstrous former pro, heavily smoking the whole time, casually mentions how he was taking up to 90 pills a day at the peak of his dependence) and the system that's made America the most over-medicated society on Earth.

If you're watching the film hoping to get some insight into the standover tactics and government complicity by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rush pseudoscience cures to the market or the lax GPs who happily write script after script for anyone who asks, it's all there.

But Bell makes his own story as sad as it is watchable too, particularly after all the footage he has of he, his brother and their parents talking about their hopes for the future, Mike's determination to beat his demons and his excitement at doing so and getting on with his life. It was all filmed just months before his death and Bell keeps the cameras rolling on himself and the rest of his family to show the aftermath.

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