Tag Archives: Drug Addiction In Men

Movies about Addiction

Substance Abuse in Media

Movies have significant cultural impact and movies about addiction are important. Substances have been portrayed in a variety of ways, ranging from casual use, to abuse and addiction. Many films, including The Hangover, are centered around wild nights fueled by alcohol. In The Wolf of Wall Street, many of the characters engage in binge-drinking and abuse of various illicit substances. While both films do touch on consequences in some ways, the movies present the substance abuse in a comedic manner. As heroin is highly-addictive and considered a “hard” drug, it is not usually thought of or portrayed in a light manner that abuse of other substances might be. There are, of course, some movies like Trainspotting which is considered a “black comedy”. This type of movie usually takes a comedic look at topics that are taboo, like heroin addiction.

In a study done on illicit substances in media, researchers found, “Media can influence audiences in four key ways…” which includes, “…indirectly shaping individual and community attitudes toward risk…”* With heavy-drinking often portrayed as comedic, it’s understandable that many do not recognize it as a problem in real life.  With heroin, this is less likely, but how it is portrayed in a movie can still have a significant impact on viewers. Movies about addiction affect our views whether we consciously or unconsciously recognize it.

Trainspotting (1996)

Trainspotting follows a variety of characters, with Mark Renton being the main character we see. Mark, and many of his friends, are lower-class in Scotland. For them, heroin addiction is a way of coping with their problems and they often express that it makes them feel better about their place in life. At one point in the film, Mark expresses the sentiment that their lives have little meaning outside of addiction. Various events, including arrests and a death, cause the group to reconsider this at certain points. A couple of times, Mark maintains maintain sobriety for a short time, determined to stay sober. However, something, whether a traumatic event or simply craving heroin, draws him back in. As most of his friends are struggling with addiction, it is difficult for Mark to maintain sobriety for a long amount of time.

True to real life, addiction is often a way that people cope with their lives. For some it is a past trauma. For others, it is something like their social and economic class, which can be traumatic in its own way. While Trainspotting is a black comedy and finds some humor in it, the movie does accurately depict how difficult it can be to break the cycle of addiction. When the majority of your social group engages in the same behaviors, this can make sobriety more difficult to achieve.

Wild (2014)

Wild is based on a memoir written by author Cheryl Strayed. The movie primarily follows her journey to walk 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. She embarks on this journey in hopes of continuing her recovery from addiction and other issues in her past. While hiking, the movie presents flashbacks that take the viewer through her life to help understand her actions. As a child, Cheryl grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father before her mother finally divorced him. Her mother was her closest friend and when she died at 45 years old from cancer, this caused Cheryl to spiral into a deep depression.

Following her mother’s death, Cheryl turns to heroin and anonymous sex in an attempt to cope with the pain. In the process, she strains relationships with her husband (they eventually divorce), family, and friends. Her addiction and depression also prevents her from finishing her education or developing a career. At one point, Cheryl denies her addiction and states that she is in control and is just experimenting. Heroin is not the sole focus of Wild, but it is a topic that is present for most of it. They do a good job of subtly showing how people might turn to addiction, their denial or reasoning, and how it destroys different areas of their life.

Many people dealing with addiction often have trauma in their lives, whether from before or after addiction. Cheryl had a traumatic upbringing with her father and then the death of her mother at a young age. The abuse of substances obviously varies, but it is incredibly common to numb pain through addiction.

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

An interesting fact about Requiem for a Dream is that the word heroin is never said by a character. There are various illicit substances used and the film does touch on different addictions. There is Harry Goldfarb, his mother Sara, his girlfriend Marion, and his friend Tyrone. At the start of the film, Harry and Tyrone are pawning Sara’s TV, which they do regularly after she buys it back, to fund their heroin addiction. Sara suffers from a food addiction and, after going to a doctor, begins to take amphetamines. Harry expresses concern for his mother and wants her to stop using drugs. Despite his concern, he is not capable of acknowledging his own addiction and how it is ruining his life.

Throughout the film, it’s clear that all four characters are delusional and using substance abuse to cope with something in their life. Sara is a reflection of many older people in real life; her husband is dead, her son suffering from addiction, which she enables, and she is incredibly lonely. Tyrone hopes to escape the ghetto. Quite often, people are trapped by economic circumstances and it is an unfortunate reality that they then turn to addiction as a means of coping. Harry and Marion are both struggling with mental health issues. They use heroin, and other substances, as a means to cope and feel something.

Sara’s husband died at some point and Harry is all she has. Because of this and her own addiction, she fails to recognize or try to help her son’s addiction. Harry, Marion, and Tyrone are all unable to see what their addiction is doing to their lives. Their relationships with one another rapidly deteriorate as they make compromises, face violence and arrest, and lose any sense of purpose to feed their addiction. As far as movies about addiction are concerned, Requiem shows how addiction can vary and how it impacts those around you.

Using Movies about Addiction to Better Understand Addiction

All of the movies about addiction mentioned above have had significant impact on our culture. While other substances are frequently talked about or shown in media, heroin has been and is still a taboo subject. They all accurately show the depths to which heroin addiction can take people. Each film also portrays the way addiction reaches the community around you, and how it affects your friends and family. Different people may be able to get varying messages from the film. For people watching their loved one go through addiction, it might help provide insight into the causes and the path that led them there. Anyone who has struggled with addiction, or still is currently, it can show that they are not alone in their experiences. Trainspotting, in particular, shows that relapse is a very normal part of addiction and does not mean anyone should give up in their efforts to maintain sobriety.

*Resources:
Illicit drugs and the media – NIH

Nutrition in Recovery

Nutrients found in food are essential to life. They provide calories and energy that is needed so we can go throughout our days. It is possible though to consume food without much nutrition and feel like you’re able to go about your day with no problems. The connection between food and health might not always be so clear to everyone. What may or may not seem obvious, is that food impacts our health and how we deal with daily life. With processed foods, it begins to lose most if not all of the nutrition it may have had. This type of food can leave someone feeling sick, lethargic, and can greatly affect one’s mood. Processed food puts the body into a state of inflammation, which leaves people feeling depressed and anxious.

Naturally, your body adjusts to what you regularly consume. For Psychology Today, Dr. Nicole Avena writes, “Without even realizing it, most food choices are made based on taste, convenience, and familiarity. The gut will not be primed for digestion of fibrous fruits and vegetables, and there exists a strong preference for food that is salty (chips) or sweet and easily digestible (sweetened cereal with milk).” If you eat only junk food, that is what you crave and what triggers the reward center in your brain. With nutrient therapy, we want to show that it is possible to feel better by eating better. Addiction significantly deprives the body of nutrients. For a thorough recovery, it is essential that we work with patients to repair their health through nutrition.

Alcohol and Nutrition

The vagus nerve is a nerve that helps your gut and your mind communicate. The food you consume directly affects this nerve, and naturally so does consumption of alcohol. When something is permeable, it becomes more absorbent or more easily allows substances to pass through. Some permeability in the gut or intestines, for example, is okay, but when it increases it can become a problem. A study done in 2014 found that alcohol-dependent subjects may have higher gut permeability, which can affect behavioral changes and mood.

The authors also wrote, “Alcohol-dependent subjects frequently develop emotional symptoms that contribute to the persistence of alcohol drinking.”* Someone might drink to cope with other issues and then develop issues from drinking, which will then lead to continued heavy drinking. This can clearly create a negative cycle; it will damage the gut and can lead to anxiety and depression, which then may be self-medicated with alcohol.

Furthermore, alcohol impedes a body’s ability to break down nutrients into molecules that the body desperately needs. Excessive consumption of alcohol can deprive the body of vitamins and minerals. A deficiency in Vitamin K, for example, can cause delayed blood clotting and will result in excess bleeding. Furthermore, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “…eighty percent of bipolar sufferers have some vitamin B deficiencies (often accompanied by anemia).”* A vitamin B deficiency is not the sole cause, nor will everyone with a deficiency suffer from bipolar disorder. However, it is an important facet to consider and increasing vitamin B levels can help to alleviate some symptoms.

Other vitamin deficiencies can cause severe neurological damage. Mineral deficiencies can result in a number of health problems including calcium-related bone disease, zinc-related night blindness and skin lesions.* For clients seeking treatment for alcohol addiction, we will identify any malnutrition or micro-nutrient deficiencies. When we know what to address, we can form a plan with food, nutrition and other necessary medicine to restore balance.

Drugs and Nutrient Deprivation

Drugs also clearly deprive the body of essential nutrients and can lead to severe malnutrition. Opiates (including codeine, oxycodone, heroin, and morphine) can cause gastrointestinal problems which can include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This can result in a lack of nutrients and electrolytes, like sodium or potassium.* With stimulants, like meth, crack, or cocaine, appetite is reduced and this leads to weight loss and poor nutrition. Long-term use can result in permanent memory problems.* There are, of course, many other possible issues. Substance abuse is a disease that can drastically destroy the mind and body. However, with proper help and treatment there is hope.

When someone is in recovery, particularly after abusing stimulants, it is possible they might turn to overeating. At Reflections, we want to work with clients on a plan to return their health to a good place and to learn new, healthy habits. This can start with eating at regular times, eating food that is high in nutrition, and even learning to prepare healthy food for oneself. Nutrition is essential to having energy, maintaining body structure, and bodily function.

A better mood and mental state is a good defense against relapse in many ways. It can encourage someone to engage in other healthy behaviors. As good food makes the body and mind feel better, physical activity will be something clients feel they can engage in. Being active can be a significant help in recovery. Overall, we want our clients to develop good nutritional habits that will reach every other area of their lives.

Utilizing Nutrition in Recovery

At Reflections, each client will go through an initial evaluation. This allows us to take a comprehensive look at our client’s health. With laboratory testing, we can identify the vitamins and minerals where there is a deficiency. This helps us identify how their health is affected, physically or mentally, and how we can proceed with treatment. We can begin to introduce food and other healthy methods of restoring balance in the body. Our goal is that each client will feel better physically, which can lead to improved mental health. We also want clients to know that they can take control of their health and what they eat, and thus play a big part in their sobriety.

If we can teach our clients proper nutrition, we can allow them to take control. Learning about nutrition regarding food, drinks, and supplements is something clients can take with them after treatment. When clients are feeling better physically and mentally, they may feel more capable of engaging in physical activity. An active life in turn further benefits their physical and mental health, creating a positive cycle. At Reflections, we all truly want each client to walk away with the skills to continue a positive life and to maintain sobriety.

*Resources:
Psychology Today – Nutrition in Recovery from Addiction
Intestinal Permeability – PNAS
Alcohol and Nutrition – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Substance Use Recovery and Diet – MedlinePlus