Impact of Substance Misuse in TV & Film
Television, film, celebrities, and even social media influencers by their very name, can influence the public’s buying habits, create and guide the narrative of conversations, and over time, even shift paradigms. Likewise, contingent on the viewer’s perspective, the media can seemingly glorify substance use, shame those struggling with a substance use disorder, or create an accurate depiction of addiction. There is a lot of gray area, as TV and film are art forms that are both open to interpretation by their respective audiences. Although certain scenes on television or in movies depicting drug use may be triggering to an individual, TV and film are generally not the root cause of substance misuse.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) has treatment facilities across the United States. We offer help to individuals with substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder, and co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. If you’re struggling with an addiction, please reach out for the help that you need today.
“Euphoria” Series and Depiction of Substance Misuse
Let’s begin with the foundation that a substance use disorder is a mental disorder. It goes without saying (but we are) that not everyone who views television and film struggles with this mental illness, which impacts an individual’s brain and behavior. It may not be clear as to why one person can watch a movie with heavy drug use and be triggered, while another individual watches the same movie and experiences no personal, physical, or chemical impact from the substance use depiction at all. What is known, is that an SUD leads to an individual’s inability to control their use of medications, illegal or legal drugs, or alcohol.
HBO’s hit series Euphoria follows the life of the 17-year-old character “Rue Bennett,” her family, and friends as they navigate loss, love, substance abuse, sexuality, relationships, friendships, heartache, and parenting.
The lead character struggles with substance use disorder in both seasons of the series. And while the audience watches Rue remain sober for a period of time, she relapses in Season 2. She uses fentanyl, heroin, and opiates, goes through a painful period of withdrawal when the substances are taken away from her, and has an emotionally charged and long-winded outburst towards her family, girlfriend, and friend in her retaliation of an intervention.
Some have said the scintillating series is accurate and honest in its depiction of substance misuse, while critics have suggested Euphoria glorifies drug use. And of course, the proposed concern is that if drug use is glorified, it will somehow be appealing to impressionable young minds who will naturally gravitate towards the show and want to mimic its characters.
Whether a fan or critic, anyone can appreciate how the actress Zendaya brings her character “Rue Bennett” to life. Zendaya makes her a living, breathing, three-dimensional human by not holding back and taking her character to some metaphorical dark places, much like the places that those addicted to drugs experience. Her substance use disorder isn’t the only challenge on display, but the mention of depression and suicide contribute to her complex character as well.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), researchers discovered that roughly 50% of individuals who experience substance use disorder experience co-occurring mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and personality disorders to name a few. Even though mental disorders and SUDs usually co-occur, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one caused the other.
If you’re struggling with an addiction to drugs, you aren’t alone. AAC provides medical detox and treatment to help individuals reach long-term sobriety. If you’re struggling with an addiction, please reach out to get the help you need today.