Addiction is notoriously hard to treat, which can make drastic measures appealing to both addicts and their families when the fight for a cure seems otherwise hopeless. Internado explores one such extreme approach developed by Dr Martín Nizama Valladolid, a staff psychiatrist at Peru’s National Institute of Mental Health in Lima, who has spent decades treating addiction and developing a radical recovery programme.
Once addicts’ families have consented to the programme, Valladolid’s patients are detained by force and entered into a period of ‘involuntary internment’. Eschewing medication except for when he uses it for sedation, Valladolid treats addicts through a regimen that includes strict rules about patient conduct and a focus on teaching values through culture.
The process culminates with a lengthy final assignment: a massive, 11,000-page autobiographical ‘thesis’, generally written by patients over several years while under the close watch of family members. Offering an evenhanded look at a controversial method, the filmmaker Josh Izenberg speaks with current and former patients, dissenting colleagues and Valladolid himself to present a nuanced picture of an addiction treatment programme nearly as complex as addiction itself.