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TV Shows About Addiction and What They Can Teach Us

TV Shows About Addiction

Addiction is a disease that affects people of all age groups and backgrounds.

As more drugs are created and new drug-related trends emerge, more teens and young adults are becoming entrapped by the lure of substance abuse. Experimentation with drugs and alcohol, however, isn’t new. Millions of people have been affected by addiction, and this ongoing issue has been shown on television screens for decades. While not all are accurate, a few television shows about addiction provide realistic glimpses into the adverse effects of substance abuse. Our Heartland Treatment Center is sharing a few popular TV shows about addiction and whether their portrayal of this problem is accurate.

TV Shows About Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

Intervention (2005-2019)

Intervention is one of the most popular reality TV shows about drug addiction and alcoholism. The show first aired in March 2005 as a U.S. docu-drama that staged over 270 interventions. Friends and family would send information about their loved ones to the show in hopes of being chosen as the group who receives help. Those selected would work with the production team to secretly film the addict’s daily routine. Eventually, the person is brought to an intervention led by a specialist. The person is then given a choice to go through a 90-day, fully paid addiction program or sacrifice their relationships with the people in the group. Business Insider worked with A&E at one point to see the effectiveness of the show. They discovered that 98.7% of people on the show agreed to treatment, and over half of them remained sober.1 The show is streaming on A&E, Hulu, Tubi, and more.

Recovery Road (2016)

Recovery Road is a teen drama about adolescent substance abuse that ran for one season on the Freeform network in 2016. The series follows a high-functioning 17-year-old named Maddie who’s faced with the ultimatum of entering a sober living facility or facing expulsion from school. The short series was based on a novel of the same name. The show was successful in its portrayal of the hardships associated with being a teenager and addiction, as well as the benefits of 12-step programs, like those offered by our Illinois drug rehab.

Euphoria (2019-Present)

Euphoria has become one of the most popular HBO shows about addiction. It depicts the role of drugs in high school and follows the lives of several teens as they experiment with drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence. Rue, the main character played by Zendaya, is the show’s narrator and a 17-year-old girl with drug addiction. The show depicts her struggles as she attempts to balance school, family, friends, and addiction. The show provides a generally accurate portrayal of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and the problems common to high school students that often lead to substance abuse.

BoJack Horseman (2014-2020)

BoJack Horseman is a six-season dark comedy about a horse that’s hit a rough patch. This adult cartoon show follows the mishaps of the main character, BoJack, after his TV sitcom is canceled. Following the loss of his career, he turns to drugs and alcohol to drown his sorrows. His addiction results in the loss of close relationships and contributes to his selfish behavior. It’s not until the episode named “A Horse Walks into a Rehab” that BoJack receives addiction treatment. Even though comedy trickled into the show, it’s a clear reminder of the hardships and loss that result from substance abuse.

Banyan Treatment Centers Heartland offers Illinois addiction treatment that addresses addiction to substances like alcohol, benzos, cocaine, heroin, meth, opioids, and prescription drugs. If you’re like BoJack and struggling with addiction, we can help.

The Trade (2018-2020)

The Trade is a nine-episode documentary series that packs a punch. Made in 2018, it offers insight into the opioid epidemic that began in the late 1990s when opioid prescriptions skyrocketed. The docuseries presents the epidemic from different perspectives, including those of cartel bosses, opioid manufacturers, and law enforcement. Topics range from struggling consumers to illicit distribution. In the process, it also portrays the effects of substance abuse in the form of failed relationships, broken families, relapses, and deaths. This Showtime documentary series offers a heartbreaking and realistic insight into the damage caused by the opioid crisis in the United States.

Many people are still struggling with opioid addiction. At Banyan Heartland, we offer a variety of resources to give individuals who are struggling with this disease a chance to live long and happy lives. Our resources include opiate detox, which assists patients in safely completing the withdrawal phase of sobriety. This is a crucial step in the recovery process that has been shown to reduce the likelihood of complications associated with withdrawal symptoms.

Skins (2007-2013)

Skins is a British TV show about teen drug use that sparked a remake in the US years later. It follows the lives of teenagers in Bristol, England, and dives into topics like drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, and mental illness. The show’s main characters are often drunk or high, contributing to many of their reckless behaviors in the show. Skins also depicts the emotional turmoil and insecurities that often present themselves in high school.

Shameless (2011-2021)

Shameless is one of the most popular shows about drug addiction out there. First created by Showtime, episodes are currently available on the Showtime app, Hulu, and Netflix. It follows the lives of a single father of six kids, who spends most of his downtime drinking. Combining an absent mother and an alcoholic father leaves the Gallagher children no choice but to raise themselves. Their lack of parental guidance and financial struggles lead them to many problems and encourage behaviors that involve drinking and drug abuse.


Mom is a sitcom that follows Bonnie Plunkett (Allison Janney) and her daughter Christy (Anna Faris) as they face the hardships of addiction recovery. Both ladies are recovering alcoholics dealing with prior traumas, and the show expertly balances humor with the serious and often heartbreaking aspects of their path. Mom examines themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the intricacies of relationships weakened by addiction against the backdrop of a dysfunctional yet charming family. The show is renowned for its poignant moments, which address the challenges of staying sober while dealing with life's everyday obstacles. Mom explores the human experience with humor and honesty, and it does it with a superb ensemble cast and a dedication to addressing addiction with compassion.

Breaking Bad

The critically acclaimed television show Breaking Bad chronicles the story of Walter White, a former high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine manufacturer. It is one of the most well-known addiction shows to have ever been released and delves further into the moral and psychological fallout from White's entry into the drug trade. White makes progressively desperate decisions as he struggles with a terminal cancer diagnosis, which results in an engrossing story that explores the nuances of addiction, morality, and the consequences of one's actions. A fascinating and thought-provoking examination of the human condition, Breaking Bad has complex character development and morally dubious scenarios.

The Wire

The Wire is a breakthrough television series that depicts the intertwined worlds of police enforcement, drug trafficking, and addiction challenges facing the city of Baltimore in a gritty and realistic manner. The Wire offers a sophisticated analysis of governmental systems, social institutions, and the effects of the drug pandemic on people and communities throughout its five seasons. The show offers a socially conscious viewpoint on addiction and its widespread influence on urban life, which helps to explain its standing as one of the most revered shows. Its fascinating storytelling and multifaceted characters further contribute to this.

Nurse Jackie

Nurse Jackie is a medical drama-comedy centered on Jackie Peyton, a competent emergency room nurse played by Edie Falco who struggles with a hidden prescription drug addiction. The show deftly strikes a mix between lighthearted moments and the grave implications of addiction in a medical context. The show's richness is enhanced by Jackie's nuanced demeanor, the moral conundrums she encounters, and her efforts to balance her personal and professional lives. Nurse Jackie depicts addiction in the medical sector in a nuanced manner, focusing light on the difficulties that healthcare professionals may face while dealing with their troubles.

Although many shows about addiction attempt to lighten the mood with humor, romance, and drama, nothing can take away from the harsh reality of this disease. This is chronic and progressive and can destroy every area of a person’s life. If you have a drug or alcohol problem or know someone who does, call us now at 888-280-4763 to learn how our Illinois rehabs can help.


  1. Business Insider - Here's why reality show 'Intervention' has a higher success rate than most rehab programs
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
TV Shows About Addiction and What They Can Teach Us
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