These movies about addiction use camera tricks, makeup, and other techniques in an attempt to properly illustrate addiction in movies.
Actors playing the role of addicts or alcoholics often look or act a certain way. They’re wired, they often look very gaunt, and those playing alcoholics will often drink constantly when they are in character. While some people struggling with substance abuse may look or act this way, these movies about drug abuse get one thing wrong – not all addicts look or act the same. Addiction has many different faces and factors.
Movies are very powerful in creating images that are often accepted as the norm. Movies that depict addicts in only one way, such as a similar appearance across multiple films, may actually harm a person’s chances of reaching out for help. This is because they’ll see the image of the addict painted in the movie and if their own life doesn’t match up to it, they may think that their problems aren’t so bad and feel that they don’t need to reach out for help.
The same goes for movies discussing alcoholism. Many of these films will show an alcoholic as someone who is always drinking, but this is not how many alcoholics work. Alcohol use disorder is a spectrum, and any point in the spectrum is dangerous. Even binge drinking on the weekends can be dangerous. Unlike in the movies, alcoholics do not have to lose everything before getting help.
Though movies still have a long way to go in terms of accurately representing the nuances of addiction, there are films that accurately portray many aspects of addiction and even recovery. These films help reduce the stigmas surrounding mental health and addiction treatment, making it more acceptable for addicts to get help.