The new reality TV show aims to raise awareness and help prevent teen SUD
By William WagnerSeptember 1, 2020
September is National Recovery Month, and MTV is marking it the best way the network knows how: with a new reality TV show.
16 and Recovering, a four-part series that airs every Tuesday in September, tracks nine students at Northshore Recovery High School in Beverly, Mass., near Boston. Founded by principal Michelle Lipinski in 2006, the school is an academic and therapeutic environment for youths ages 14 to 21 with substance abuse disorder (SUD). “This isn’t just teaching, we’re saving lives,” Lipinski says in the series trailer about the show, which shines a light on the ups and downs of being an adolescent in recovery.
The actual episodes, however, are just one component of this ambitious awareness effort. MTV, owned by ViacomCBS, collaborated with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to produce ancillary educational resources.
“NIDA worked with MTV to help the brand ensure that its materials accompanying the show, including the resource website and series discussion guide, reflected the latest science on teen substance use disorder and recovery, as well as preferred language and depictions, to help reduce the stigma that continues to surround addiction,” says Jack Stein, M.D., chief of staff for NIDA.
MTV is a powerful platform for amplifying the need to fully address the persistent public health issue of adolescent SUD, says Stein. According to National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), 946,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 needed substance abuse treatment in 2018, with 159,000 receiving it. That same year, according to NCDAS, there were 4,633 drug overdose deaths among people ages 15 to 24.
We believe the power of storytelling—and collaboration with experts like NIDA and Michelle—will be a wake-up call for audiences, parents and communities to break the stigma, foster empathy and expand access to treatment for young people,” Chris McCarthy, president of (MTV owner) ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group
“We were pleased to be able to collaborate with MTV, which has an immense reach to and influence on teens and young adults who may be currently navigating choices about drug use that could have a lasting impact on their health and lives,” Stein adds.
16 and Recovering is modeled after the popular MTV series 16 and Pregnant, which ran from 2009 to 2014. Statistics from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicate 16 and Pregnant played a role in pushing teen pregnancies to record lows. The creators of 16 and Recovering hope their series will make the same type of social impact.
“As this generation comes of age into a society facing an opioid epidemic, we believe the power of storytelling—and collaboration with experts like NIDA and Michelle—will be a wake-up call for audiences, parents and communities to break the stigma, foster empathy and expand access to treatment for young people,” Chris McCarthy, president of ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group, said in the series’ press release.
Added Nina L. Diaz, president and chief creative content officer for ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group: “It has been a privilege to earn the trust of Michelle and these remarkable teens who bravely share their journeys and demonstrate such extraordinary resilience as they work to overcome addiction. We are honored to bring their powerful stories to the forefront.”
16 and Recovering will air at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST Tuesday nights this month.