Television has been in pop culture for nearly a century since electronic television was first demonstrated successfully in 1927. Since then, the small screen has allowed creators and writers to make stories that not only move people but inform them on serious topics. One of those topics is drug addiction. Drug addiction is a disease that can destroy people’s livelihoods, relationships and their own bodies. Some shows have featured addiction in a more sensationalized light but others attempt to depict a realistic portrayal of the long and arduous journey addiction takes its users. Here is a list of television shows that bring drug addiction to the forefront.
“Shameless” is a show that covers an ensemble of characters that are part of a dysfunctional family living in Chicago. The loyal and fierce Fiona Gallagher (played by Emmy Rossum) takes on a guardian role for her siblings since the father (William H. Macy’s Frank) is a bumbling alcoholic that spends all his time at the bar. The show spends more time on the children as the seasons progress, but in the beginning, it mixes comedy and drama in its depiction of a family broken down by Frank’s alcoholism. The show highlights how the parenting role has reversed with Fiona and the other children taking care of Frank when he stumbles into the house in the middle of the night. The show goes even deeper into addiction with Frank’s son Lip (played by Jeremy Allen White) who struggles with alcoholism, showing his experiences with Alcoholics Anonymous. (AA)
The HBO teen drama “Euphoria” has shown addiction in a raw manner in its first two seasons so far. The show covers a variety of problems such as mental illness, body dysphoria, masculinity and toxic relationships. The most consistent storyline, however, has focused on 17-year-old Rue Bennet (played by Zendaya). The show begins with her return from rehab as she tries to avoid the temptations of hard drugs. There is no glamorizing of her addiction by the showrunner, Sam Levinson, and instead is a deep dive into a very troubled teenager that has used drugs to cope with the hardships in her life. Relapses, lying, withdrawals and fighting occur more than once and are presented on the screen in a realistic light.
Nurse Jackie (2009-2015)
In the emergency room, nurse Jackie does the best she can for her patients within a health care system that is failing her. The only wrinkle in this image is that she is a functioning addict, depending on Vicodin and Adderall. Like “Euphoria” and “Shameless,” “Nurse Jackie” shows how addictions to opioids can be very hidden and still lead the users to be high functioning. Like in real life, however, the longer it goes, the worse the consequences can become.
The other shows already discussed have been scraped, but “Intervention” shows real-life people’s experiences with addiction and how their loved ones are affected. The docuseries gives a comprehensive profile of the individual struggling with addiction leading to an intervention at the end of the episode by family members and friends. While this show highlights the users, it also gives an important spotlight on the people in the user’s life. It provides awareness of how addiction destroys relationships and trust, eventually resulting in ultimatums.
Netflix’s “Love” follows people pleaser Gus (played by Paul Rust) and the exuberant Mickey (played by Gillian Jacobs) as they navigate the dating scene. The two eventually meet and become attracted to each other despite their differences, but they both have major flaws that will affect the outcome of their time together. Addiction is not the main focus, but definitely, something that plays an important role in the plot. Mickey is a recovering alcoholic and abuser of prescription medication. She struggles with the temptation to drink and lies to her sponsor. “Love” cares less about showing the rock bottom character arc that many drug users go through on television, but instead how her addiction prevents her from living a life of contentment with deep connections to others.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is available with the substance abuse and mental health services administration (SAMHSA) national helpline which offers confidential free help to find treatment and information. The number is: 1-800-662-4357