10 Most Accurate On-Screen Portrayals of Addiction

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In the Hollywood glitz and glamour, it is not uncommon to stumble upon films or television shows that are severely exaggerated and completely outlandish. For instance, although a phenomenal film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of the more overemphasized movies. While the exaggeration appears to be true in many cases, there are quite a few programs that actually portray realistic hardships of addiction.

The appearance of drugs, alcohol, and addiction make their way into many films and television series. As someone who knows and understands the grips of addiction, these movies can hit a soft spot; but for those who don’t, they’ll be able to experience the truths behind the day-to-day life of the battle. The stigma of addiction has caused many individuals to feel negatively about the disease. However, accurate representations of addiction can help individuals truly understand what it means to be controlled by drugs or alcohol. After sorting through the good and bad, here are 10 of the most accurate on-screen portrayals of addiction.

1. “Requiem for a Dream”

“Requiem for a Dream” (2000, director Darren Aronofsky) is one of the most well-known films depicting addiction. Based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, the film takes a journey through multiple cast members’ addictions. The storyline is raw, real, and terrifying. “Requiem for a Dream” is spot-on in portraying the reality of addiction—from the behaviors, withdrawal, and the obsessive nature of the disease.

2. “Trainspotting”

“Trainspotting” (1996, director Danny Boyle) is not for the weak. This film is raw in its depiction of the struggles of active addiction. The expressions were illustrated in a way that can make you feel exactly what the cast member is going through in that scene, feels that were often unpleasant. It’s provocative, yet powerful and completely direct. It’s also one of the better-known films about the sick and twisted lifestyle of heroin addiction.

3. “The Basketball Diaries”

The Basketball Diaries (1995, director Scott Calvert) is a film that supports the idea of addiction having no preference of who it takes under its wing. The disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate, especially for this teen on his promising road to basketball stardom. The surroundings of the main character and the influence of his friends helped jumpstart a heroin addiction that ultimately cost him his aspirations.

4. “Animals”

Animals” (2014, director Collin Schiffli) tells the story of two addicts in love with each other—and with heroin. The bond is seemingly unbreakable until it eventually leads to the uncontrollable and unfortunate consequences of addiction. The dynamic of the film is extremely realistic, especially since it is a highly relatable and common occurrence of individuals in active addiction.

5. “The Wire”

“The Wire” (2002 – 2008, creator David Simon) is a television series surrounding the Baltimore drug scene. The series is depicted through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement. “The Wire” realistically portrays urban life, society, and politics. In the show, a number of cast members are actively using and selling drugs. The writers of this show strove to create a realistic vision of the exact nature of the game from all perspectives, ultimately succeeding in their goals.

6. “Blow”

“Blow” (2001, director Ted Demme) depicts the lifestyle of addiction from a drug dealer’s perspective. An American cocaine smuggler (George Jung) creates a name for himself through his affiliation with the Medellín cartel. The chaotic lifestyle accurately portrays the manic and unstable mindset of an individual doing enough cocaine for the masses on top of consistently committing a major crime. Although nearly impossible in today’s society, during the time frame of the movie, it was a common theme.

7. “The Wolf of Wall Street”

“The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013, director Martin Scorsese) takes on the life of a New York City stockbroker and his journey to the top. Unfortunately, when you have that much money and work in the high stress, fast-paced environment, you’re bound to need something to get you through the day. The storyline perfectly exhibits the harsh reality of wealth and the idea that addiction doesn’t discriminate or lay off the reins if you have the money. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, the madness will still come over you if you’re actively using drugs and alcohol.

8. “Drugstore Cowboy”

“Drugstore Cowboy” (1989, director Gus Van Sant) portrays the wild, chaotic, and desperate behaviors of active addiction. In certain cases, scheming and robbing is almost as natural as brushing your teeth. The film is set in the eyes of an individual who robs drugstores and people to get what he needs—the drugs. However, eventually everything catches up with you and it doesn’t always end well. Addiction can make you do a lot of things, especially when you are struggling with money. You often can’t see anything past the next hit.

9. “Half Nelson”

“Half Nelson” (2006, director Ryan Fleck) is a story of a teacher with a drug habit who ends up befriending one of his students. The reality of the storyline is unbelievable as he experiences the battle between good and evil —like many individuals in active addiction often do. The obvious nature of an individual in active addiction can be alarming; however, in the film, it was clear to many people in his company. Addicts often think they can hide your addiction but sooner or later the truth finds its way out.

10. “Flight”

“Flight” (2012, director Robert Zemeckis) is a story of a pilot who uses a few illicit substances due to his long hours and little sleep. Unfortunately, the plane undergoes a spontaneous decline and the pilot safely lands the plane. However, the use of drugs and alcohol get in the way of the heroic aspect of the story. Unfortunately, this is a case similar to many in the workplace. Addiction affects not only yourself but your ability to perform at work but also can sometimes cost you your job. “Flight” is an accurate and heart-wrenching portrayal of these consequences of addiction.

Are You Struggling?

If you or someone you know is struggling with the harsh reality of addiction, we can help. California Highlands Addiction Treatment Center can help you find the right treatment program that suits your individual needs. Contacting us at (888) 969-8755 will get you on the line with our trained professionals to answer any questions or concerns you might have about getting the help you need. It’s never too late to regain control of your life, so why wait?