THE SYNANON FIX on Max is a new HBO Documentary series about the drug rehab program that turned into a cult. It takes its time over four hour-long episodes which is a good thing. Read our The Synanon Fix docuseries review here!

THE SYNANON FIX is a new HBO Documentary series on Max. This one is all about the groundbreaking drug rehabilitation program known as Synanon. For the first time, addicts were told that they could get clean and succeeded.

Unfortunately, what starts as a humane and good thing, turns into what can only be described as a cult. It’s a sad development that happens slowly over many years. This docuseries has four episodes where episode 1 focuses on the good, but by episode 2, we start to see the dangerous escalation.

Continue reading our The Synanon Fix docuseries review below. It debuts on HBO on April 1, 2024, and will be available to stream on Max.

Today is the first day in the rest of your life

Before I go any further, I have to mention the fact that Charles “Chuck” Dederich is the man behind the now iconic quote: “Today is the first day in the rest of your life” which I absolutely love.

This is a brilliant quote for anyone going through a hard time or needing to start over. And the people at Synanon would definitely need to live by that mindset: That you can restart and build your life back up. Despite beginning as a wonderful and important thing, Synanon ended brutally. As do most cults!

In this HBO Original, the story is told through first-person accounts of former members, which – in my opinion – is the only way to do it. Sure, you can have outsiders comment on how they saw it all evolve and escalate. However, without insiders telling their own stories, it would never work.

Synanon started as a controversial treatment center. Bear in mind that the “controversial” part was largely that nobody believed drug addicts could be treated. As an alcoholic, who can get sober with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Chuck Dederich didn’t believe that drug addicts couldn’t also be helped.

In the late 1950s, he created the Synanon drug rehabilitation program. It was groundbreaking as a communal living experiment. Of course, being at a rehabilitation center for addiction is a very normal approach now.

A wild descent into a cult

Unfortunately, those who stayed in Synanon would see its descent into something very cult-like. And most did stay as they feared they would relapse if they left. Of course, they believed this because Chuck told them they would relapse.

The success of Synanon was largely thanks to the confrontational talk therapy known as “The Game”. This attracted many non-addicts in the 1960s, who were looking to alternative ways of life. The non-addicts were also called “lifestylers”.

In The Synanon Fix, you’ll see how the confrontational and alternative methods turn into radical therapies. Everything becomes increasingly extreme as it degenerates into paranoid behavior from Chuck, who becomes a defacto cult leader. Eventually, he is charged with child abuse, assault, and attempted murder.

The Synanon Fix – Review | HBO Documentary Series

Watch it all escalate into madness

All the right people are interviewed in The Synanon Fix. By “the right people”, I mean the people who actually lived through it. Even those who left before it became very cult-like can speak to the amazing things as well as the warning signs. Just like the ones who stayed can speak to the good and bad.

No matter how it all turned out, SYNANON did start as a good thing for many people. The kind of people that society had not only turned their backs on but candidly given up any hope for.

The Synanon Fix features candid interviews with many former members of Synanon. Not least the daughter of Chuck Dederick, Jady Dederich Montgomery. She also became the eventual Synanon leader and is speaking publicly for the first time about her experience in this HBO Documentary series.

Also, the docuseries showcases various kinds of Synanon archival material. This includes footage of the infamous “The Game” as well as news footage and extensive audio recordings. Of particular importance among the audio recordings are Chuck Dederich’s teachings as they change and evolve in wild ways!

The titles for each episode give you an idea of how it evolves:

  • “Here come the dopefiends” is episode 1, which sets the stage.
  • “A war on convention” is episode 2, where it starts to change
  • “What in the hell is happening?” is episode 3, and that title speaks volumes
  • “Strap yourself to the mast” is episode 4, where it all comes to an end

When you’ve watched episode 1, you might wonder why we’re covering it on this website. By the end of episode 2, you’ll have an idea. After watching episodes 3 and 4, you’ll see just what kinds of true crime docuseries this actually is.

Watch The Synanon Fix on HBO and Max

The HBO Original four-part documentary series comes from filmmakers Rory Kennedy and Mark Bailey (HBO’s Ethel, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing) and is a crazy experience. While it does play out slowly, it seems like the only appropriate way to tell this story.

After all, it starts out being a good and efficient help for drug addicts before turning into something very different. Something that revolves around money and power while exploiting the very people it was created to help.

If you like focused and detailed documentaries about cults and true crime, then The Synanon Fix on HBO and streaming on Max is definitely for you. The fourth and final episode premieres on Monday, April 22, but you can watch the weekly release to take it all in bit by bit.

Watching it in one sitting is brutal – trust me!

The Synanon Fix debuts on HBO on April 1, 2024 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT). It will also be available to stream on Max. 


Told through first person accounts of former members, THE SYNANON FIX explores the rise and fall of the controversial treatment center Synanon, which grew from a groundbreaking drug rehabilitation program in the late 1950s into a communal living experiment that would later draw criticism for abuse and cult-like behavior.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard
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