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Good and Bad: Addiction in Movies & Television


Movies and television are what many people look to as an escape from the real world. But when these tv shows and movies portray different types of addictions and substance abuse, it can make those who are already addicts, more susceptible to abuse. Making these addictions glorified by being put in the spotlight, performed by talented actors in beautifully filmed forms, put to dreamy music... it can make these addictions seem beautiful, normal, and even acceptable. Which addict or not, we know is not the case. Or it could even show the struggles of addiction that are so raw and real that make people feel even worse.


Movies and shows that come to mind? Trainspotting depicts the struggles of active heroin addiction and the user's twisted lifestyle. Blow is the true story of famous cocaine smuggler George Jung. Half Nelson is about the battle between good and evil with a crack addict teacher who befriends a student. The Wolf of Wall Street also tells the true story of how addiction doesn’t discriminate against anyone for any reason. The tv show Shameless is one that needs its own article.


All these shows and movies, even more than noted above, can hit a soft spot for those who know the day-to-day battle themselves. Some of the movies and shows will promote the addiction in the negative, giving addicts a bad rap. Whether they are the ones who have experienced or are experiencing it firsthand or through one of their loved ones, watching these performances on screen can be scary (or it can be reassuring, depending on how it is portrayed). It can show that addiction is normalized and glamorized, making the fact that they do or sell drugs is okay or even comical. These shows and movies are made for entertainment and can pose a negative effect.


But movies and shows can also be chariots for good! When these films and shows showcase honest performances, it can put addiction into a new light and understanding. It can show viewers who don’t have any experiences with addiction, what it is really like and maybe put these experiences in a new perspective for them. As a pathway to helping those in need.


As the opioid epidemic grows, more and more people are becoming aware of the problem. Movies and television shows are growing with it. More than ever these films and shows are putting more focus on addiction, substance abuse, alcohol addiction, and the damaging effects of mental health disorders. Hopefully, these changes in entertainment can educate the public and lawmakers that the mental health of the population if very important and could use some updating.