Drug use is a common topic in films of all kinds, whether as a main plot point or a device to further a character’s storyline. This isn’t much of a mystery: approximately 25 million Americans have used an illicit drug at least once in the past month, and 70% of those 18 and older have had a drink. Whether for better or for worse, substance use, both responsible and irresponsible, is a popular habit for a large portion of individuals.
However, the use of substances in media isn’t always realistic. Often painted in extremes and designed to create drama and attract attention, drug use on television rarely sends an authentic message – or a positive one. Here’s what pop culture gets wrong about addiction, detox, and recovery.
Drug Use in Films
The vast majority of content involving drug use in movies and TV shows, especially content aimed at young people, takes one of two angles: that drug abuse is a quick path to death and that once in, there’s no way out, or that drug use isn’t necessarily problematic and recreational use is nothing more than a good time.
Both of these stances are, of course, extremely problematic. Glorifying drug use and tying it to parties, sex, and popularity makes it appealing to teens and young adults, increasing the likelihood of use without a full understanding of the consequences. As many young people start using in school or with friends, an association with good times and sexual relationships can be dangerous.
Additionally, painting a picture of bleak hopelessness isn’t good either. While this can potentially scare individuals out of using in the first place, it also drives home the point that once use starts, it can’t be stopped and there’s no way to move forward. In order to promote getting help and healing, it’s important that users realize that support and treatment are available to aid in recovery.
As with many elements of daily life, there’s a division between life and art. These misconceptions can be very damaging, creating long-term problems for users and non-users alike.
Addiction Isn’t Endearing
In many films, addiction is presented as a charming personality quirk that can be problematic but ultimately non-damaging. This perpetuates through dozens of movies and television programs: characters clearly abuse drugs but still manage to be successful or, at the very least, cope with life in an above average manner.
Take, for example, Dr. House in the eponymous show House. While his drug habit is clear and does occasionally cause problems, he is able to make world-class diagnoses and provide care that few doctors, if any, could achieve in real life. This impression sets a dangerous precedent, creating the belief that it’s possible to develop an addiction and still maintain high pressure, important obligations.
Detox Doesn’t Lead to Romance
In many films and television programs, recovering from drugs is often a conduit for a romantic relationship. The setup seems simple: you’re on the same journey with many other people, so the evolution of a relationship would be natural.
However, relationships are completely discouraged and, in some cases, banned, during detox and recovery. While detoxing and getting sober, it’s important to focus on yourself, not other people. You are the only one who can ultimately influence your recovery, and spending time on other people is absolutely more hurtful than helpful. Take, for example, the TV program Dexter. During the second season, Dexter begins a relationship with his sponsor Lila – to disastrous, deadly results.
A Few Meetings Doesn’t Lead to Recovery
Going to meetings and attending treatment is a great way to get started on the road to sobriety, but actually getting sober requires a lot more than a few meetings here and there.
Too often, media portrays the decision to attend rehab as the first and last step needed to get clean. The first meeting is the commitment a character needs, and from there on, they will be largely happy and healthy.
In real life, this is far from the truth. The first meeting is not the magic key to sobriety, and some people will need many first meetings to truly connect with the recovery process. Relapse is a reality, and the real process will require a lot more dedication than a single session in treatment.
Detox Isn’t Necessarily Uncomfortable and Painful
It’s true that detox and withdrawal won’t be much fun. Breaking the cycle of addiction, especially a chemical addiction, often comes with extremely unpleasant side effects. Sandra Bullock’s character Gwen Cummings in 28 Days is a great example of this; her struggles with detox, especially detox alone, provide a miserable picture of the process.
When undertaken in a licensed, certified facility, doctors and nurses help to keep patients as comfortable as possible. Through a combination of medication, counseling, and therapies like yoga and acupuncture, it’s possible to control symptoms to ensure the best chance of success. There will be low moments, but proper help can ensure you’re not in pain or suffering greatly.
It’s Not Easy – or Impossible
Many movies shoe an overly rosy image of addiction, while others create a bleak, fatalistic view of what addiction means. Requiem for a Dream, for example, is lauded as a cinematic masterpiece, but it doesn’t paint a particularly positive picture of the options available for users. Alternately, other movies show rehab as an instant success, as if going through the motions is all it takes to get sober.
Realistically, quitting will take effort, but it’s not impossible. If you develop a substance use disorder, you are not doomed to suffer for life: recovery is always an option and, with help, you, too, can cease a drug or alcohol habit. Making the choice to trust a program, go through detox, and commit to counseling does take a leap of faith, but with determination and dedication, sobriety is fully possible.
The Reality of Detox
In reality, detox is a critical part of ongoing sobriety. The name for the process that breaks the physical bonds of addiction, detoxification is the first step in recovery in most programs. Lasting one to two weeks on average, detox uses a combination of medical, psychological, and physical tools to ease withdrawal and help users stay clean and sober for as long as possible.
The process will have ups and downs – and the pains of withdrawal can be quite hard to bear at times – but making it over the initial hurdle is the key to moving on once and for all. With a successful detox, the stage is set for long-term recovery.
Getting Help from Outpatient Services
If you or someone you love is struggling to manage a substance use disorder, you’re not alone. Outpatient Services is here for you, providing the support throughout detox and recovery you need to succeed. Please contact us today at (844) 211-7944 to learn more about what we can offer.