If you haven’t been living under a rock, then you’ve probably heard of addiction until now. Contrary to popular belief, addiction is synonymous with neither habit nor craving. Addiction is a very serious medical condition, claiming more and more lives with each passing day.
Many people have lost their lives to addiction and many are suffering hopelessly from it at this very moment. However, social media and the movie industry seem to be oblivious to the issue, as usual, and have instead decided to portray addiction as a herald of teenagerhood and maturity.
Why is addiction so cool?
To answer this puzzling question, we only need to ask a handful of experts in the field of coolness, namely some popular fourteen-year-olds on Instagram and Tik Tok. After all, a lot of us have been there ourselves. For a high school freshman, the need to fit in is strong, so we begin to „experiment”. By experiment, I mean drink cheap wine in the back of a car and puff at a slim cigarette while trying to look like we are actually NOT choking on the smoke. If you have done one of these two things in your early teenage years, then you were probably one of the „cool kids”.
These habits seem defiant and dangerous to youngsters, so they use them to feign confidence and hide their lack of self-assurance. Little do they know, some of these habits can turn into addictions and follow them into adulthood.
Tobacco and alcohol, the monsters hiding in the closet
This is not to say teenagers are the only ones responsible for fueling the misconceptions surrounding addiction. Their caregivers should take most of the blame. As children, we are taught that the worst we can end up is to become a drug addict.
In school, we learn that alcohol is very bad and smoking can cut your life short by a couple of decades. These lessons, often accompanied by a dire tone and farfetched stories, take away from the actual message and paint a wrong image of what drugs are and how they are classified. Not to mention how toxic their superficial approach to drug addicts is.
In reality, youngsters don’t learn anything useful about gateway drugs and their effects from adults. No, educational system, smoking a cigarette will not turn you into a cocaine addict and playing drinking games at house parties will not bring about your demise.
These teachings become the object of ridicule and only serve to turn experimenting first-handedly and word-of-mouth into the only accurate ways of learning. Schools and caregivers should work together and devise a new curriculum, focused on how harmful substances work and why their consumption can spiral into addiction.
Additionally, instead of teaching children and teenagers hostility towards drug addicts, schools should instil compassion and empathy by bringing in former drug addicts and letting them talk about addiction instead. They should not be regarded as failures, as they are members of our society and deserve to be treated as such.
Watch out! The movie industry is at it again!
This leads me to my most important point. Movies and Tv series are notorious for taking serious issues lightly and addiction makes no exception. Very few movies reveal the dark side of addiction and treat it like the real problem it is.
Most cinematographic works settle for making addiction another intriguing part of a character’s personality, which adds up to his mysterious side. Thus, it is not uncommon to see the protagonist of a movie sniffing a line of cocaine only to carry on right after as if nothing of the sort ever took place. This topic will most likely not be addressed further and the picture will leave it unresolved.
Nevertheless, this shallow approach serves to further stigmatize addiction and split addicts into `agreeable addicts` and `creepy junkies`. The agreeable addicts are those well-dressed businessmen and notorious artists who enjoy the occasional, breezy dose of class A drugs and the creepy junkies are the dowdy, alcoholic beggars you are told to beware of at night.
Truth is, casual drug usage does not exist and those businessmen are just as addicted and emotionally distressed as what we think as `real junkies`. The only difference is that the former category has the means to seem like they have the situation under control.
But companies don’t just make movies that will not sell. Once again, viewers are to blame. How many people would watch a film tackling addiction and the daily struggles of an addict? It is just not profitable as long as most people don’t care about it. They would rather see a character `attractively` drink a gallon of whiskey a day and sniff a few lines of cocaine all the while staying classy and sharp. They don’t stop to ask themselves: is this really how it works?
To learn more about this topic, check out this article!