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Substance Abuse in Movies, TV, and the Media: It’s Hurting Us All

Drugs and alcohol are multi-billion-dollar industries — some operating out in the open, and some less so. But no product on earth gets to be that big just because it tastes good or makes you feel good. Drugs and alcohol have marketing behind them, and the trouble is, we don’t always realize that we’re being marketed to in the first place.

Sure, there are funny ads for beer during sporting events on TV, and we’ve come a long way since tobacco companies were banned from marketing to children. But what about the “free advertising” that drugs and alcohol get in movies and television? Let’s talk about some of the ways this can happen, how to spot it, and how Extra Mile can help you overcome some of the ways the media has influenced your perception of addiction.

Famous People Are Often Celebrated for Abusing Substances

We have to be careful as a culture not to glorify or romanticize the destructive tendencies that people have. Separating the art from the artist is a difficult task, especially when someone’s work is directly tied to their substance abuse. For example, legendary author Ernest Hemingway is still lauded today for setting the example of a hard partying “man’s man,” but if he’d had better access to support for his substance abuse and mental health issues, he may have lived longer than he did.

But for others like Chris Farley, who spent a considerable amount of time under the influence of hard drugs, it ultimately led to his passing. Today, Farley is remembered for his explosive comedic prowess, but it’s hard to separate that from the substance abuse that’s highly evident in some of his performances and led to his early death.

Fictional Characters Portray Substance Abuse as “Cool” or “Funny”

When it comes to what we see in movies and TV, people often take a “what’s the harm if it’s fiction?” type of viewpoint. This leads to entertainment depicting substance abuse with an air of celebration.

For example, while the protagonists eventually fell off their perch in the movie Scarface, it doesn’t happen until hours of glorifying drug use and drug trafficking have passed.

Underage substance abuse is rampant in the United States and may be a risk factor for substance use disorders down the road, but that doesn’t stop films like Superbad and American Pie from depicting them as being what “cool” people do.

In shows like Mad Men, Don Draper and his colleagues are almost always pictured with a drink in their hand, even their time in the office. Accurate to the times, perhaps, but not sensitive to the fact that it normalizes high-risk behavior.

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Understanding Our Influences at Extra Mile Recovery

We’ve heard it since we were kids: Don’t believe everything you see on TV. This is especially true when it comes to substance abuse. At Extra Mile Recovery, part of our holistic approach to rehab is learning what sorts of influences there may have been — be they from the media or somewhere else — in someone’s patterns of behavior and working on addressing them.

We’re an all-male inpatient addiction treatment center nestled in the scenic forests of Mantachie, MS, where we provide a personalized approach to drug and alcohol rehab that’s tailored to everyone’s individual needs. We’re always happy to help with any questions you might have, too. If you or a loved one are struggling, give us a call at (662) 351-3343 to see how we can help.

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