The best TED Talks for addiction and recovery, along with other powerful YouTube videos to play for clients in a treatment setting – or for yourself or for anyone who desires to learn more about substance use.
The following best TED Talks for addiction are entertaining, insightful, and though-provoking.
18 Best TED Talks for Addiction & Recovery
1. The 12 Steps According to Russell Brand (2018)
A 10-minute clip of Russell Brand’s interpretation of the 12 Steps. Humorous and honest.
2. Addiction: A Story of Stigma, A Story of Hope | Scott McFadden (2020)
This 18-minute talk delivered by Scott McFadden is one of the best TED Talks for addiction as it addresses stigma and sends a message of hope.
Excerpt: Scott McFadden is a Licensed Addictions Counselor, who also identifies as a person in long term recovery from heroin and other drugs. He shares a harrowing story of incarceration and a long journey to recovery while explaining the dynamics of addiction and the labels, shame, and stigma which have become the greatest obstacles to turning around the opioid epidemic.
He shows us the need to talk to one another to overcome the secret places where shame resides. This is a story of vulnerability and hope!
5. Addiction Neuroscience 101 (2018)
Approximately 25 minutes, an overview of the neurobiology of addiction.
4. Chris Herren Speaking on His Addiction Recovery Story | PeaceLove (2015)
A 17-minute motivational speech delivered by Chris Herren.
Excerpt: Hear former professional basketball player and motivational speaker Chris Herren speaking about his recovery from drug addiction. Since August of 2008, Herren has been drug-free and alcohol-free, and has refocused his life to put his sobriety and family above all other things.
5. Disconnected Brains: How Isolation Fuels Opioid Addiction | Rachel Wurzman (2018)
This fascinating 19-minute video clip from Rachel Wurzman is one of the best TED Talks for addiction as a biopsychosocial disorder.
Excerpt: Addiction to opioids is now officially a national emergency. But why are addiction rates spiking and what can we do about it? Neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman shares new research about how the brain reacts to opioids, replacing the sense of community and belonging human beings are losing. We are beginning to understand that solving the opioid epidemic will require us to focus on social factors surrounding those addicted.
6. Do You Have More Heart Than Scars? | Zackary Paben (2017)
A 17-minute inspirational talk by Zackary Paben.
Excerpt: How can resilience and interdependence impact the arch of our personal narrative to transcend from victim to hero? Since 1991, Zack has been empowering adolescents and adults as a mental health/recovery professional in a variety of modalities, including wilderness and residential.
As he continues to face his own visible and invisible scars, he innately has to acknowledge the wounds of others and encourage them in their own healing process.
7. Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong | Johann Hari (2015)
A 15-minute video from Johann Hari. This piece is somewhat controversial because it suggests that addiction is a social/environmental issue while failing to address the impact of trauma, genetics, brain chemistry, etc. This clip is an excellent tool for generating discussions and is one of the best TED Talks for addiction.
Excerpt: What really causes addiction — to everything from cocaine to smart-phones? And how can we overcome it? Johann Hari has seen our current methods fail firsthand, as he has watched loved ones struggle to manage their addictions. He started to wonder why we treat addicts the way we do — and if there might be a better way.
As he shares in this deeply personal talk, his questions took him around the world, and unearthed some surprising and hopeful ways of thinking about an age-old problem.
8. Great Leaders Do What Drug Addicts Do | Michael Brody-Waite (2018)
An 19-minute talk from Michael Brody-Waite, entrepreneur and addict in recovery.
Excerpt: This is my story from drug addiction and homelessness to founding and leading a company on the Inc 500 list. There are 3 principles that saved me from death and set me apart as a leader. They are small enough to fit in your pocket, yet big enough to change your life. The best part is that anyone can take these principles and immediately implement them after watching this talk.
9. The Harm Reduction Model of Drug Addiction Treatment | Mark Tyndall (2017)
This 17-minute video from Mark Tyndall about harm reduction and recovery is one of the best TED Talks for addiction treatment.
Excerpt: Why do we still think that drug use is a law-enforcement issue? Making drugs illegal does nothing to stop people from using them, says public health expert Mark Tyndall. So, what might work?
Tyndall shares community-based research that shows how harm-reduction strategies, like safe-injection sites, are working to address the drug overdose crisis.
10. How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime | Nadine Burke Harris (2015)
16-minute talk by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris on the impact of trauma.
Excerpt: Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.
This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer.
11. Let’s Quit Abusing Drug Users (2015)
19-minute video clip about addiction and recovery reform from Dr. Carl Hart. He discusses drug use in the context of poverty, social injustice, and ignorance. An excellent video for generating discussion and one of the best TED Talks for addiction and policy reform.
Excerpt: Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University, offers a provocative, evidence-based view of addiction and discusses how it should impact drug policy.
12. The Merits of Harm Reduction | Melissa Byers (2019)
14-minute video clip from Melissa Byers about addiction, harm reduction, and recovery.
Excerpt: Melissa shares her family’s personal story of addiction and how harm reduction plays a much more significant role to recovery than people realize.
13. Nuggets (2015)
A 5-minute cartoon clip of a kiwi bird who tastes a golden “nugget.” This simple animation doesn’t require words to send a powerful message about addiction. Hauntingly accurate.
14. The Power of Addiction and The Addiction of Power | Gabor Maté (2012)
This 19-minute speech delivered by Gabor Maté is one of the best TED Talks for addiction.
Excerpt: Canadian physician Gabor Maté is a specialist in terminal illnesses, chemical dependents, and HIV positive patients. Dr. Maté is a renowned author of books and columnist known for his knowledge about attention deficit disorder, stress, chronic illness and parental relations.
15. Recover Out Loud | Tara Conner (2017)
One of the best TED Talks for addiction, this 10-minute video clip from former Miss USA, Tara Conner, is all about her personal experience with substance use.
Excerpt: Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006, shares her life-long struggle with addiction and what she has learned from 10 years of sobriety. Addicts are not bad people that need to get good, but sick people that need to get well.
In this challenging and at times humorous talk, she calls for a different response to the addiction crisis.
16. Revitalize | Living With Addiction | Amber Valletta (2015)
16-minute inspirational talk delivered by Amber Valletta.
Excerpt: Supermodel, actress, and fashion icon Amber Valletta opens up for the first time about her daily struggle of living with addiction.
17. Rewriting the Story of My Addiction | Jo Harvey Weatherford (2015)
10-minute video clip from Jo Harvey Weatherford about her personal recovery journey.
Excerpt: Jo Harvey Weatherford develops and implements drug and alcohol prevention programs on the campus of The University of Nevada. In this candid talk she discusses the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about our behavior, and how she rewrote her own story of addiction to alcohol.
18. The Stigma of Addiction | Tony Hoffman (2018)
This 15-minute video from Tony Hoffman is one of the best TED Talks for addiction. He shares about his substance use and stigma.
Excerpt: There is a stigma which many assign to drug addicts, even long after they have overcome their addiction. Tony discusses how his first time smoking marijuana led to his eventual drug addiction, homelessness, prison, and finally redemption.
For Families – The Island of Insanity: Navigating Through Loved Ones’ Addictions | Karen Perlmutter (2022)
A powerful 13-minute video for anyone who is traumatized by the addiction of a loved one.
Excerpt: With a master’s degree in clinical social work, Karen has seen first-hand that addiction is a tragedy with a profound effect on the family. She has ideas on how we can support families in combatting the devastating effects of this disease After earning her undergraduate degree through the University of South Carolina in 2003, Karen began working with teens and families through a therapeutic foster care agency. She pursued higher education in the field, earning her Master’s in Clinical Social Work at the University of North Carolina (Wilmington) in 2007, and continuing on to becoming a Licensed Independent Social Worker.
Karen has over a decade of experience working as a therapist with individuals, couples, and families. She specializes in the treatment of substance abuse and mental illness, and has developed a particular interest in supporting the holistic needs of families who are affected by these struggles.