Last updated: May 25, 2020
The way Hollywood portrays alcoholics and drug addicts is often one that glamorizes the lifestyle as one of excitement—with just a hint of danger. Even drug dealers can be shown in a sympathetic light, despite the fact that millions of people’s lives are destroyed by the actions of a few. Television is a constant presence in our lives, as many people will stream their favorite shows on mobile devices when away from home and the television set.
Television commands many peoples’ attention for several hours each day. Studies have shown that television competes with other sources of human interaction—such as family, friends, church, and school… It also influences viewers’ attitudes and beliefs about themselves, as well as about people from other social, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.
Television shows, unlike movies that depict drug use are broadcast into our homes on a weekly basis. A closer look will tell whether drug use is being glamorized or if the real truth of family and financial devastation is being shown. Television shows and advertising have always influenced society by setting trends and dictating styles—and society is subliminally moved to act or mentally massaged towards inaction depending on the way television presents hard-hitting topics. This might explain, in part, why America is facing an opiate epidemic that affects all sectors, from the top executives in the boardroom all the way down to rank and file employees in industries like construction and trucking. In fact, the problem has become so widespread that the Department of Transportation has recently updated their DOT drug testing regulations.
Much of today’s television programming has reference to drug use or drug sales, however, several of the more egregious televisions shows depict, and often glamorize drug use. Consider what they portray about drug use in our society today and whether drug use is glamorized or accurately depicted.
TV shows that are definitely *not* what the doctor ordered
As a way to make money for his family, high school chemistry teacher Walter White, after being given a death notice by way of lung cancer, turns to making and selling methamphetamine (meth) as a way to support his family. While those who take part in the escalating drug empire, their lives are destroyed—ending up either broke or dead. The series ended with the show’s star Walter White killing himself after tying up the loose ends in his life.
In this show, the main character is a drug addicted emergency room nurse who not only struggles with the fast pace of her job, but also with plenty of other drama in her home and personal life. The show is a comedy/drama, but actually does depict how opiate drug use can spiral out of control and slowly cause all the things dear and near to fall apart. This realistic and honest television series depicting drug use ends with Nurse Jackie lying on a hospital floor as a result of a drug overdose.
This is a TV series about Nancy Botwin, a privileged, suburban mother who starts making a living selling marijuana after her husband’s death. She soon finds that most of the community has a drug problem. The series follows the main character Nancy as she creates a front business to hide her illegal activities, develops a large client base in the community, and eventually enters the criminal justice system.
This series sheds light on drug addiction within the medical community. A renegade and highly talented, Doctor House, who is skilled in solving mysterious medical cases is addicted to the very opiate drugs he prescribes. The doctor has no desire and no intentions of stopping his drug use, even though his behavior alienates people and he lives a very solitary lifestyle. The series ends with House faking his own death to avoid prison time.
As Frank Gallagher’s children struggle to keep the household running because of the mother’s absence, his alcoholism keeps him in a constant stupor. His solution to child-rearing? Coming up with unique parenting style while rationalizing and avoiding his problems with grand opinions about social and political issues. His real focus is on finding ways to cheat the system to get more money for his addiction.
Countering the glamorization of drug use
We as a society—especially those who either don’t abuse drugs, or are presently caught in the grips of addiction, should pay close attention to how we are influenced by the shows we watch on television. Too often, young people will have a glamorized view of drug addiction as seen on television shows. This influence can often be enough to open the door for experimental and recreational drug use—especially in our younger generations.