Glorifying Drugs is a Hollywood Tragedy

glorifying drugs in hollywood

Glorifying drugs is a Hollywood tragedy. Most of us rarely hear or see anything on TV and movies that show drugs from the one who struggles with the disease’s perspective. We have all read the stories about how we have become more desensitized to violence from movies and TV shows. The same thing is happening with drug use and drug statistics.

The drug trade keeps growing around us on the streets of our cities. In movies and TV shows, drug dealers are portrayed with their closets full of drug money. You rarely see the victims of the drug trade mentioned in the movies or TV shows in a realistic manner. The more we glorify drugs through movies and TV, the more chance we take on losing another whole generation to the disease.

Drug Use Statistics

There are approximately 20 million Americans who struggle with addiction every year. There are significant movies made and TV shows produced every year that have those struggling with substances its disease in the main plot. Strangely though, those are the very people used in the storyline with comic irony in their portrayal or tragedy when the screen shows them dying in front of you. Think of the blockbuster hit of 2018, A Star is Born.

What’s more, is many of the actors and actresses in the movies or on TV shows, are recovering from substance abuse themselves. Some of them are great to step out from behind the curtain of the disease and share their personal stories.  Personal recovery stories hold power in their words to reach those who are still fighting the disease.

Most of the actors and actresses stay behind their cloak of invisibility in an attempt to not let anyone know about their substance abuse struggles.

Films Showing Realities of Addiction

There were three movies in 2018 that portrayed substance abuse and the disease in realistic terms. They were:

  1. Beautiful Boy
  2. Ben is Back
  3. Six Balloons

Have you ever heard of them? Most people haven’t heard of them, and that’s the tragedy of Hollywood movies. It is the tragedy which revolves around not portraying substance abuse in realistic terms. Producers will not give realism to the disease because they don’t make enough money when they do it.

Movies Glorifying Drugs

However, let’s compare the three realistic substance abuse movies of 2018 listed above that most of us didn’t know about and let’s also look at some top-grossing movies 2018. These movies did glorify drugs in one way or the other at some point in the film.

  1. A Star is Born
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. Widows

It is true, A Star is Born is about substance abuse and its disease killing one in the end. Addiction to drugs and death is a realistic enough ending. But do any of the listed movies show substance abuse in a realistic manner? If movies do show some realistic scenes about the disease, do they simultaneously glorify drug usage? Is there a connection between glorifying drugs in Hollywood and various celebrity deaths from drug overdoses?

Detox to Rehab often shares information with our patients about how society affects recovery and rehabilitation. Hollywood and movies are part of society, and entertainment through movies and TV shows have a huge impact. Movies give us a great room for debate when we want to talk about them. Movies and TV shows are the most accessible art form there is. We can see movies on our laptop or go to the theater. We can watch TV shows on our smartphones. In essence, it provides a common experience for all of us.

Hollywood Addiction and Disease Tragedies

That’s the problem in Hollywood. In real life, substance abuse and its respective disease of addiction have no happy endings or pretty deaths. It is only through recovery and rehabilitation there is a healthy future with possibilities. Hollywood tends to give us people in one extreme or the other.

Hollywood never shows us people going through the steps of their recovery. That’s what Hollywood needs to do for the desperate who are out there trying to figure out a way through their substance abuse.  It is the people who struggle the most with drugs who believe no one understands who they are, what they feel, or why they matter. Those thoughts may be too deep for Hollywood. They are too deep because they are considered unsexy substance abuse and recovery steps.

The steps of rehabilitation as one honestly goes through them Hollywood doesn’t show. Substance abuse by its definition sometimes has significant setbacks along the way. Almost everyone who attempts to quit, relapses, has ugly moments and finally a choice is made. The choice is to go into recovery and stay in recovery. People finally bridge the gap by never wanting to use drugs again.

Substance Abuse Portrayed in Movies

Relapse doesn’t discriminate and runs between 40 and 60 percent of people treated for alcohol or drug addiction relapse in the first year. The fall-out from relapsing back into the disease can have fatal consequences. The actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, told everyone including TV interviewers he had been clean and sober for over 23 years. But in 2014, he was found in a New York City apartment dead from acute mixed drug intoxication.

No one knows what goes on in someone else’s life. No one will ever know why Phillip Seymour Hoffman relapsed after so many years. But there are many other famous actors, actresses, singers and entertainers who join him yearly. It would be great if the blockbuster movie hit of 2020, is a movie about realistic drug recovery and rehabilitation step by step.

The question may be is there a way to portray substance abuse in a realistic manner that won’t lose audiences? The answer to that question is yes. Yes, there are ways to portray substance abuse and all its sad, lonely, painful, resolute, and heroic stages. Movies can portray those realistic recovery scenes, and keep audiences engaged. It is the drama of going through those stages that make for such worthy, dramatic, heroic and intense minutes. It is because life isn’t picture perfect that makes it beautiful.

  1. Drugs addiction is actually a complete waste of time and money. They destroy your memory, self respect and everything linked with your self esteem.

  2. You’re right, Hollywood does glorify drugs (and also often ends up glorifying many other harmful things). I think sometimes film makers get so caught up in the artistic process that they don’t do their due diligence in considering the deleterious side effects of some of their movies. I enjoyed “A Star is Born” on some levels, but it was also a very, very frustrating film, and the drug portrayal (and ending) was on my list of complaints.

  3. Hollywood doesn’t care as long as they’re making the big $$.

    On another note, I really love the movie Requiem for a Dream. It shows what can happen not only to street drug users, but also those on prescription meds.

    1. Tim – I also like Requiem for a dream. It’s also a pretty accurate display of how doctors are so eager to throw pills at us without really taking the time to talk with us and make sure we don’t have any underlying conditions.

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