While some TV shows about addiction or ones that include addiction offer realistic portrayals and a healing message, others may display a false depiction of how drug and alcohol abuse can affect a person’s life.
As a drug and alcohol treatment center in Boca, we know that the reality of addiction is not always accurately portrayed in all TV shows. In a generation where most of the world has access to TV, it’s important to point out what they don’t mention in TV shows about substance abuse.
What TV Shows Get Wrong About Addiction
The inaccurate portrayal of addiction in TV shows most likely won’t be noticed by someone who has no personal experience with substance abuse. Unfortunately, addiction on TV shows isn’t always realistic and is often tied into the plot to add drama and then eventually neatly resolved. Keep in mind that addiction is a chronic disease that is treatable, but not curable. While a person may undergo drug or alcohol addiction treatment, they may stay sober for the rest of their lives, but not without challenges.
Below are some misconceptions about addiction that are commonly displayed in TV shows.
Similar physical signs of addiction are depicted.
In TV shows that show substance abuse, they often physically portray addicts in the same way: sallow and pale skin, dark circles under the eyes, hair unkempt, poor hygiene, and so on; however, addiction is not always outwardly obvious. There are functioning addicts that keep up with their hygiene, their physical appearance, and their responsibilities. The physical effects of substance abuse also depend on the substance in question. For example, meth abuse may be more obvious than a benzo addiction because meth is known for causing tooth decay, or meth mouth.
The idea that you need to use drugs to be socially accepted is reinforced.
Regardless of the era, many TV shows involving teenagers and young adults illustrate the idea that you need to take drugs to fit in or be popular. The portrayal of high school parties with underage drinking and drug abuse is typical for many TV shows. Unfortunately, shows very rarely show the effects of consistently behaving this way. Momentary parties and outings with friends are shown, but not the effects addiction can have on friendships, relationships with family, physical health, and mental health.
Addiction is curable.
In TV shows like Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World, drug and alcohol addiction was diagnosed, addressed, and “cured” within a week. In one particular episode of Saved by the Bell, Jessie begins taking caffeine pills, which are meant to represent the methamphetamine known as “speed,” in an attempt to keep up with schoolwork and her band. She soon discovers that she’s become addicted to these pills. It only took one episode for her to develop the addiction and overcome it, though.
In a Boy Meets World episode, Shawn keeps drinking after he and Cory get drunk for the first time. While Cory decides to stay away from alcohol, Shawn continues to drink and becomes an alcoholic within a week. By the end of the episode, he’s cured of his addiction and makes amends with all of his friends.
The reality of addiction is much more complex than what it’s made out to be in certain TV shows. An addiction cannot be cured and it takes more than a few days to quit using drugs and alcohol completely. Without formal help, withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and the person’s condition can worsen. At Banyan Treatment Centers Boca, we offer a medically monitored detox that offers 24-hour care and medical assistance to treat patients’ withdrawal symptoms.
Cheesy portrayals of group therapy are prevalent.
Many people in addiction recovery are reluctant to attend group therapy because lots of TV shows offer a cheesy and dramatized portrayal of Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step program meetings. Because TV shows want to capture their audiences and keep them coming back for more, they’ll spice up the stories and scenes by adding drama and interesting dialogue. While many group meetings do encourage members to share their struggles and achievements in sobriety, these meetings aren’t always as negative or cliché as they’re made out to be. Group therapy for addiction recovery isn’t just about the negatives, it’s also about encouraging others who are also working on their sobriety and receiving support from them as well.
Not all shows about substance abuse are inaccurate. Alcohol and drug addiction in TV shows like Shameless and Euphoria are expressed in realistic ways. It’s important to offer a more accurate portrayal of addiction and not a glamorized version in order to spread awareness and possibly erase any current misconceptions.