In the end, these programs end up revealing plenty about our own state of mind and our own needs.
"This just in from pseudoscience: Addiction documentaries contain an element that excites dopamine receptors, shuts down the frontal lobe and causes intense cravings," wrote The New York Times TV critic Virginia Heffernan in her review of the show.
And that urge to watch is fueled by the needs of lonely viewers, adrift in a disconnected society.
"The rise of reality TV is symptomatic of the loss of real connection and intimacy in our lives, the craving for real human contact," said Glenn Sparks, a professor of communications at Purdue University, who has written about media addiction. "These addiction shows present possible scenarios that we can become attached to -- one of the reasons that people get involved with other people is that there are problems to address and to solve.
"There's an irony," said Sparks, "in the fact that these shows are presenting themselves in a way that people could get addicted to them."