The Canadian version of the popular US show pushed boundaries last year by covering unique stories beyond drug addictions, like the heartbreaking look at Cassandra, who suffered from an eating disorder. "Intervention Canada" also ventured into new territory when it undertook a double intervention for Christy and Loren, who both battled alcoholism.
Interventionist Andrew Galloway says viewers can expect unique stories again this season on "Intervention Canada." The show strives to accurately reflect the issues Canadians are facing, such as an alarming uptick in prescription drug abuse. Of course, it also covers the addictions that the US show is no stranger to, such as crack, heroin and crystal meth. One of this season's episodes follows a beautiful young blonde woman named Tammy, whose life spirals out of control because of her crack addiction.
We caught up with Galloway to find out more about the new season, and how addiction trends in Canada compare to our southern neighbours. We chatted about everything from his own battle with a crack addiction to whether he thinks shows like "Breaking Bad" are a bad influence.
How was the experience of working on Season 2 different, now that you have Season 1 under your belt?
I'm a little bit more relaxed. We also have different kinds of stories this year, which is good. One of the things I've noticed about how we differ from the US show is that, at least in Canada, there are a lot of prescription drugs up here. So we're doing shows on Dilaudid or hydromorphone and all of these other prescription drugs, which the US shows have never seen before. Or even Fentanyl.
Why do you think that is?
Well I think it's probably easier to get a prescription up here, one. Two, we've also changed the laws. We're using the OxyNeo's up here now [instead of OxyContin], so people have been forced to find alternatives. I would say heroin is now on a big upswing because all these people who were using Oxy in the past can no longer use Oxy and they're physically dependent on opiates, so they need to find something and heroin is a cheap alternative. And it's more dangerous. At least when you were using Oxy you knew what you were using. Heroin changes with every batch. You don't know exactly what you're getting. I would expect to see overdoses increase in Canada.
Do you think the show has helped ease the stigma surrounding addiction at all?
I hope so! That's the point. It could be your neighbour or coworker or family member. It is a story about Canadians. It gives a good broad view of what's going on in Canada, as well as what's going on in small towns and big cities and seeing the differences.
I find it interesting that there do seem to be different trends across the country. Can you give me a sense of which addictions are particularly prevalent in different regions?
If you look at the show, I think we've had more prescription drugs in Eastern Canada. Western Canada I would say there's been more heroin. Cocaine, crack ... more central Ontario or the bigger cities. Crystal meth tends to be in smaller cities. I'm speaking very generally. All drugs are everywhere. You can find it if you're looking for it.
Yeah, it is. When you think that one in 10 people suffer from addiction or alcoholism, that's 10 percent of the people walking down the street. The majority of addicts aren't face-down in the gutter.
I watched the episode featuring Tammy, which was quite powerful. What was that intervention like for you?
That was a difficult intervention because some of the family members were using. It was a fairly disconnected family, so people hadn't seen each other in a while and didn't have great relationships. And for 48 hours they needed to come together to help someone they all cared about.
Why do you think interventions are such a powerful tool?
They're done in a loving and caring way, for one. Two, it's the entire family united to help somebody, so it's very difficult for the addict to single you out or isolate you and get defensive. There's no attacking going on, so for them they're all of a sudden being overwhelmed with love and support and people saying please get this help. It becomes difficult to say no because they're really saying no to the family. Over 90 percent go to treatment.
How does your own history [as a recovering addict] help you as an interventionist? Do you think people trust you more because you've been where they are?
I think people trust me more. I think it gives me a little bit of street credibility. I think they also know that I can relate to how they feel because I've been there. At the same time I think it also shows that you can get out of this, and that your life can be different. Having said that, you don't have to be a recovering addict to be a good interventionist. Maureen Brine, for instance, is fantastic.
What is the treatment experience like?
I think every place is different. I can talk about my own experience a bit. The first few days, walking in just scared me to death. After detox, all of a sudden all of the emotions -- the guilt, the shame -- come to the surface. I wanted to run so badly. I remember it like it was yesterday, and it's been over 11 years now. And that's where the support of family members holding their bottom lines comes into play, saying you need to stay. For myself, I toughed it out and I ended up spending over five months in treatment when I went. And it's been a success for me. But treatment is scary.
What's the biggest thing you hope people will take away from watching the show?
Addiction doesn't discriminate. Male, female, black, white, rich, poor. It's everywhere, and we need to realize that we need to step up as a country and help those who are struggling with it the same way we help those with heart disease and any other medical illness. These people are sick and we need to help them.
I've heard the argument that shows like "Breaking Bad" glamourize the drug scene. How do you feel about that?
I'm not sure "Breaking Bad" glamourizes the drug scene. I haven't seen anyone there looking like they were having a good time. Even Jesse, for instance, looked like he hit a pretty good rock bottom when using. Jesse came out of it pretty easily, and I think the majority of people would struggle more than Jesse did to come out of it. And I don't think the majority of addicts could turn around to become big-time meth cooks and stay sober. That's unrealistic. But I also think the majority of people don't think they're going to become empire-building meth cooks anyway. And on "Breaking Bad," a lot of people get killed. I certainly don't watch the show as a recovering addict and say oh God, I'm missing out on something!