The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

Series 1 - Episode 1



What do you want from a medical documentary? This has it all – engaging presenter, shrewd approach, touching case studies and radical implications. So relax: we’re in safe hands.

Presenter Dr Chris van Tulleken (the more low-key of the van Tulleken twins) is convinced that GPs over-medicate. Under pressure from patients, they understandably prescribe painkillers, antidepressants and antibiotics too readily, and to a dangerous extent. So can he do any better?

What follows is wonderfully eye-opening, and includes a dramatic experiment with a woman called Wendy who has been taking painkillers for 20 years to treat her chronic shoulder pain. You may never look at paracetamol the same way.


Dr Chris van Tulleken presents the first in a two-part social experiment aimed at finding out whether patients really need the repeat prescriptions they currently take. While many drugs undoubtedly do good, he is concerned about the possible side effects they can cause - and also believes many common illnesses are best treated without drugs. Taking over part of a GP surgery, Chris hears the stories of several patients, and instead of handing out their regular pills, he takes them away. In one case, a woman with chronic shoulder pain is unaware that some of her pills are now placebos, while his treatment of a depression-sufferer is more extreme - asking her to swim in a freezing cold lake.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Chris van Tulleken
Director Jack Rampling
Executive Producer Dominique Walker
Producer Lizzie Bolton
Series Director Emeka Onono