High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell

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High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell is a 1995 HBO documentary which follows three crack cocaine addicts as they go about their day-to-day lives in the former industrial town of Lowell, thirty miles north of Boston. Lowell was once a thriving textiles hub with an important role to play in the American Industrial Revolution, but that is ancient history and for decades the city has been decline. Things got even worse for the city in the late-eighties and early-nineties when the towns biggest employer, Wang Laboratories, began to struggle financially and eventually went bankrupt.

The documentary successfully explores the lives and personalities of the three addicts – Boo Boo, Dicky, and Brenda – while it also interviews friends and relatives of the three. One of the three directors of the documentary, Richard Farrell, is actually a recovered addict and citizen of Lowell himself. His contacts with the drug scene enabled the filmmakers unprecedented access into the murky world of the deprived Highlands neighborhood. It is in Highlands that most of the filming takes place, it also happens to be the place to go if you want to score hard drugs, and it also serves – naturally – as the cities red light district.

Dicky is a particularly interesting subject as he is a former professional boxer who his trainer claims (in the film) once had the potential to become one of the true greats of the sport, had he have not succumbed to drug addiction. Brenda is a personality who will at times infuriate you, she becomes pregnant and contemplates abortion. Each time she raises the $400 needed to have an abortion she squanders it on drugs. Boo Boo is the only one of the three to get clean during filming but he ultimately relapses after losing a job, while Dicky Eklund gets sentenced to a long stretch in jail.

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