We have explored the relevance of addiction in music through our recent posts on recovery songs, and today we will dive into the portrayal of drug use through cinema. Addiction is a compelling and enticing theme that directors target to shine a light on, and create interest around an issue not often talked about. An accurate film about addiction shows the painful reality of recovery, relapse, and everything in between. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for movies to offer an unrealistic portrayal of the struggle, glamorizing drug usage through humor, money, and fame. When analyzing films about addiction, it is essential to focus on ones that show the real, dangerous, life-threatening consequences of substance abuse. Luckily, there are many fantastic, eye-opening films that offer insight into the challenges and struggles of those facing addiction. These films will leave you straying away from illegal substances and alcohol abuse at all costs, as devastation and heartbreak is guaranteed.
The Basketball Diaries (1995)
The Basketball Diaries features Leonardo DiCaprio playing Jim Carroll, a high school basketball star who finds himself lost in the harsh struggle of heroin addiction. The story begins by outlining his life growing up in Manhattan, as a passionate and talented basketball player. His future is looking bright and promising, until his turn to drugs, specifically heroin, spiral his life out of control. Jim begins to use drugs as a way to cope with difficulty in his life. His close friend is battling Leukemia, his basketball coach is drilling him hard, and he is facing teenage sexual desires. Jim turns to heroin, which quickly begins to ruin his life.
The Basketball Diaries offers an accurate portrayal of drug use because Jim is completely hooked following one-time heroin use. The incredibly addicting properties heroin presents are extremely important to take note of, as many people think they are immune to addiction and can dabble in drugs as they please. The reality of this addiction follows as Jim becomes utterly reliant on the drug and his life is destroyed. Unable to function, Jim overdoses, sells his body for money and eventually ends up in prison. This film shows how addiction can happen to anyone, even a young high school basketball star who seems invincible. After leaving prison, Jim is admitted to a mental health program and ultimately comes out sober and ready to live life again.
Blow is a 2001 drama film that documents the life of the American cocaine smuggler George Jung, played by Johnny Depp. Growing up poor, George decides that he does not want that life for himself, and begins selling drugs to support himself and his ideal lifestyle. George begins his career selling drugs on the beach, eventually turning into a smuggler responsible for 85% of the cocaine used in America in the late 1970’s. The film truly shows the low points of addiction, as George not only became addicted to cocaine but addicted to the life of selling and smuggling drugs. While he is making money, he has no control over his life, and his cocaine addiction quickly ruins his life. This film demonstrates that while one may have money, one can never truly be successful while addicted to drugs. Inevitably, George finds himself in prison multiple times, on bad terms with his family, and with a wife who is also an addict. George is left facing a lengthy prison sentence, wondering whether this life of addiction and drugs was worth it after all.
Thirteen offers a look at addiction from a perspective that is not often considered, that of a female adolescent. The story follows a thirteen-year-old girl Tracy, an insecure and naive seventh grader trying to fit in. Tracy meets and befriends Evie, another thirteen-year-old girl who embodies all that Tracy wants to be. Tracy views Evie as the coolest girl in school, popular, rebellious, and unstoppable. It is not long until Evie proves to be an incredibly bad influence. Evie comes from a broken home, with a single mother involved with a drug addict. Evie introduces Tracy to a world of drug and alcohol usage, shoplifting, sex, lies, and deceit, all at the young age of thirteen. The film depicts how easy it is for vulnerable young teenagers to fall into a downward spiral and a life of addiction. The film is realistic and straight up, opening eyes and bringing understanding to the pressures teenagers are often felt. Teens are profoundly influenced by their surroundings and the desire to fit in, making peer pressure a leading culprit in adolescent drug usage. The film shows the disconnect between the young girls and their parents, and the importance of maintaining healthy, trusting relationships. Talking to your kids and being aware of the signs to look for in a struggling addict is crucial to saving the lives of those who may not be able to save themselves.
Flight is a drama starring Denzel Washington as successful commercial pilot Whip Whitaker. Flight offers the perspective of a prosperous adult, who seems to have it all together on the outside, but secretly struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. Somehow, he has managed to avoid crashing thus far in his career, but when he finds himself under the influence of cocaine and alcohol, his luck runs out. Whip manages to prevent an utterly catastrophic crash, resulting in only six fatalities. However, Whip is not immediately viewed as a bad guy in this situation and instead is hailed as a hero for making a landing and saving many lives. Whip initially gives up alcohol and drugs after this crash, but after facing a toxicology report, his addiction is exposed. Eventually, Whip comes clean about his addiction and is sent to prison on multiple counts of manslaughter. Flight shines a light on the fact that there are many people out there struggling with addiction in secret. Many addicts attempt to function and live a regular life, where they are unaware of the issues their addiction is presenting until they find themselves in a life or death situation, like Whip. It focuses on the reality that addiction can happen to anyone, at any age, regardless of how prosperous they may have been in the past. The film shows how quickly and easily one's life can crumble under addiction, ultimately losing everything they worked for.
Clean and Sober (1988)
Clean and Sober is a well-executed film about cocaine addiction, starring Michael Keaton, Kathy Baker, and Morgan Freeman. Michael Keaton plays Daryl Poynter, a real estate salesman who struggles with cocaine and finds himself deep in trouble. This film depicts the severe impact that drugs have on one's ability to make good decisions. Daryl decides to embezzle $92,000 from his company’s funds, a choice influenced by his heavy cocaine usage. Daryl wakes up one morning to find out the investments he made with the embezzled money were failing, and even worse, finds that the girl laying next to him in bed has had a cocaine overdose. She suffered a heart attack, and Daryl quickly tries to hide all the evidence of drugs, but it does not work. With the police aware of the drug issues and the embezzled money situation, Daryl decides to flee the country to protect himself. Upon discovery that fleeing the country is not as easy as it seemed, and in an attempt to avoid the cops and his boss, Daryl admits himself into a drug rehabilitation program. Upon entering rehab, Daryl meets Craig, a counselor who becomes very impactful on his stay. Craig supports Daryl throughout his recovery process, and the movie highlights how beneficial rehabilitation programs genuinely are. No matter how lost one may find themselves, it is never too late to start fresh and begin living the life they dream.
If you are interested in learning more about addiction and seeing the real-life implications of this disease check out these eye-opening films! There are many lessons and realizations that these films supply us with, showing that the disease is real and dangerous and not every movie, or life has a Hollywood ending. Significant takeaways that these films present us with:
Addiction doesn’t just harm yourself; it harms everyone in your life:
While addiction undoubtedly causes turmoil in one’s own life, it is not a one-way street and can wreak havoc in the lives of those surrounding you. Addiction can bring pain and suffering to one’s family, friends, and even people you have never met through actions impacted by drug usage. As addiction takes over one’s mind, abusing drugs becomes their top priority, causing relationships to suffer. Relationships built upon trust, common interest, and like-mindedness are jeopardized by drug dependency, as loved ones live in a state of fear and pain.
Addiction can affect anyone; it is an equal opportunity disease:
Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate, as it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. Many people stereotype addicts as poor, uneducated individuals without knowing the reality of it. Even the smartest, wealthiest, most talented people can fall into addiction as it is a disease that does not care who you are. Many people believe they could never become an addict, and continue to abuse drugs while living in a state of denial until it is too late. It is essential to understand that what someone may think is a one-time usage can quickly and easily spiral into addiction and dependency beyond one’s control.
The importance of getting help before hitting rock bottom:
Another stereotype associated with addiction is that one must hit rock bottom in order to realize their problem and create a desire to change and seek help. The danger comes in waiting to hit rock bottom as for many rock bottom can mean death. The right time to seek help is now before addiction causes more, potentially irreversible damage. Admitting the problem before things reach an extreme low can ensure a more fulfilling future. Why wait for the worst to happen when you can seek help and start a happier and healthier life today?
There is always hope:
While addiction is a vicious disease, it is also one that can be overcome. The belief that there is a better life and better times ahead is so necessary for recovery. No matter what you have done, said, been through and believe to be true, there is always a way out and a light at the end of the tunnel. The struggle comes in finding this hope. Regardless of how hard life is right now, it is best to focus on what it could be, setting goals and creating a vision of happiness. Through recovery this better life is within reach, building a healthier lifestyle, stronger relationships, and a chance to feel whole again. Maintaining hope and a desire to live a fulfilled life after addiction will lead to success in recovery and beyond.
Are you, or is someone you love struggling with addiction? Call us today! At Landmark Recovery, we want to help you live your best life possible, free from addiction and suffering. Our goal at Landmark is to create a supportive environment for recovery through trust, treatment, and intervention. Our comprehensive team of devoted individuals wants to help you reach your full potential through our many services that include detox, residential and inpatient, hospitalization, and intensive outpatient. Stop enabling the problem of addiction, and start allowing recovery and change! Live the life you dreamed, and reach out to Landmark Recovery today.