14 Powerful TED Talks Relating to Drug Addiction and Recovery

There’s a reason TED Talks’ tagline is “ideas worth spreading.” These influential videos have become widely popular thanks to their raw nature, innovative content, and a vast variety of subjects.

With the widespread issue of drug and alcohol addiction, it’s no surprise that there are a host of inspirational talks in the realm of drug addiction and recovery.

Below are a handful of TED talks on addiction and recovery relating to drug addiction. These videos may just provide the empowerment you need and also shed light on how our culture views addiction, as well as the science behind addiction and recovery in these powerful TED Talks.

1) How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime by Nadine Burke Harris


Any kind of childhood trauma will have a significant impact on a person’s life. Nadine Burke Harris delves into how this trauma affects the health specifically. Heart disease, mental disorders, and substance abuse are only a few of the areas influenced by trauma. One of the most important points Nadine makes is that it is important to address the root of the problem, and not take a “band-aid approach.”

2) Everything You Know About Addiction is Wrong by Johann Hari

With an in-your-face title like that, you know this talk is going to be worth your while. Johann Hari has spent years traveling around the world to find out what causes addiction and what the solution(s) could be. His innovative ideas may just be the cure for the universal crisis of drug and alcohol addiction.

3) Listening to Shame by Brené Brown

Brené Brown has a knack for presenting unique subjects in a compelling manner, as demonstrated by her previous viral talk, The Power of Vulnerability. In “Listening to Shame,” Brown discusses what can happen when people confront their feelings of shame. This talk is a must-watch for anyone who has struggled with these emotions surrounding drug and alcohol abuse.

4) A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit by Judson Brewer

While addiction is anything but simple, acclaimed psychiatrist Judson Brewer has a way of breaking down the concept of addictive behavior. Using mindfulness exercises and simplistic techniques, Brewer has helped numerous patients break the habit of addiction. He shares his thoughts in this insightful speech.

5) The Stigma of Addiction | Tony Hoffman

Tony is a former addict who has been dedicating his life to creating awareness by describing the dangers of heroin and prescription pills.

Tony Hoffman became addicted to drugs, went to prison, and lived on the streets. But even after rehabilitated his life, became an Olympic-level BMX coach, the stigma of drug addiction follows him everywhere. He doesn’t let that stop him from being successful, but many others are stopped from achieving success after recovery by the drug addict stigma.

6) How Isolation Fuels Opioid Addiction | Rachel Wurzman

Addiction is a neurological disorder that creates compulsions beyond a person’s control, and disrupts a person’s ability to enjoy social interaction down to the cellular level. Neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman discusses her findings that drug addiction and loneliness are not only connected but are controlled by the same part of the brain. Social isolation contributes to addiction and relapse, but social connectivity can actually help recovery.


7) In the Opioid Crisis, Here’s What it Takes to Save a Life | Jan Rader

Fire chief Jan Rader saves many lives, many of whom are addicts who overdose on opioids. She believes that we need to focus not only on saving lives, but helping those who overdose rebuild lives. Her community is changing the way they work with addicts, creating programs to help them after they are saved from an overdose, as well as the first responders dealing with PTSD.

8) Why We Need to End the War on Drugs | Ethan Nadelmann

Drug policy reformist Ethan Nadelmann breaks down all the moving parts of the United States drug enforcement, and the large disparities between policies and what’s actually happening. He believes that ending the prohibition of drugs and regulating, taxing, and treating drugs the way we do alcohol will kill the stigma and reduce crime. Is the legalization of drugs the answer? Ethan weighs in on his TED talk.


9) Addiction is a Disease: We Should Treat it Like One | Michael Botticelli

Only one in nine people in the U.S. get the care and treatment they need for addiction and substance abuse.*

Nearly every family in America is affected by addiction, but very few people actually talk about it, let alone help people successfully recover from it. Unless we change the way we view people with addiction, we’re unable to change for the better. Listen to Michael Botticelli, who was the Director of National Drug Control Policy under President Obama, discuss how we can help.


10) Recover Out Loud | Tara Conner

Tara Conner was crowned Miss USA in 2006. During December of that same year, Tara entered the Caron Treatment Center for alcohol and drug addiction.

With more than 20 million people in long-term drug recovery, how is it that more people aren’t talking openly about this? If we can reduce the stigma of addiction and allow people to speak more openly about it, she believes we can prevent drug addiction before it starts.

11) Drinking and How it Changed My Life | Ann Dowsett-Johnston

“I was the poster child for today’s modern alcoholic. She is female. She is well educated. She is professional. She is high-functioning…” – Ann Dowsett-Johston

Alcohol marketing is aimed at young women, and many start drinking in high school and develop deadly diseases as young as in their twenties and thirties. Women are drinking more than ever as a form of self-medication to help stress, depression, and the other pressures they face, and because wine doesn’t have the same stigma as drugs, it doesn’t seem like as big of a problem. See how Ann got her life back, and what she’s doing to prevent others from falling victim to addiction.

12) The Power of Addiction and The Addiction of Power | Gabor Maté 

Why are some people able to do drugs and avoid becoming addicted, but others cannot? Physician Gabor Mate explains the science between addiction, trauma, and relationships, and how brain development influences addictive tendencies from infancy.

13) Overdose Epidemic: Facing the Hard Truth | Stephen Dass

“The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”

Most of the drug programs in North America are focused on treatment, rather than preventing drug abuse before it starts. By mentoring children at an early age, and nurturing them as they grow, their prospects grow exponentially. Communities are the key to disrupting the overdose trend.


14) What Causes Opioid Addiction and Why is it so Tough to Combat? | Mike Davis

In the 1980s through the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies began to market opioid painkillers aggressively, while downplaying their extremely addictive potential. Needless to say, the number of prescriptions went through the roof and so did cases of addiction, beginning the crisis that still know today. 

When opioid use is ceased, the body becomes incredibly sensitive and experiences painful withdrawal effects that make them too ill to function normally. When a person has a relapse, it’s not because they want the drug itself, but because the drug makes their symptoms go away. But with opioid use skyrocketing, getting into treatment is more difficult than ever.

Find more TED talks related to addiction on TED.com

Are you or a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol addiction? Our Colorado drug recovery center can help. Contact us today at 720-577-4422 or hello@choicehouse.com. 

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