Hollywood has been very interested in addiction for a long time, using it as a minor or major plot point in many television shows and movies. However, there is an increasing number of television shows that offer a more diverse portrayal of substance abuse, dependency, and addiction. From reality TV to drama to comedy, producers have created a range of shows depicting active addiction and recovery. While some shows portray addiction more sensationally, others seek to show the nuance of addiction as a long and complicated disease, through the acknowledgment that addiction is gradual and seldom starts or ends with a singular dramatic event. Keep reading for Soba Recovery’s list of TV shows about drug addiction!
Top TV Shows About Drug Addiction
- Nurse Jackie is a medical comedy-drama on Showtime that follows a nurse in a New York City hospital who is addicted to prescription opioids. The co-creators of the show Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem all struggled with alcohol addiction at some point in their lives and created the show to portray a high functioning addict who is competent at her job but jaded by the self-centeredness of active addiction. Nurse Jackie avoids stereotypes of addicts to portray a realistic version of high-functioning addiction as a tight-rope walk, in which falling off results in pain and destruction.
- Intervention is a docu-series on A&E profiling individuals struggling with addiction, following the consequences of those addictions and the effectiveness of interventions. The daily life of an individual who is substance dependent or suffering from addiction leads up to an intervention staged by their family and friends offering them an ultimatum: go to rehab or be cut off from the support of their family and friends. The involvement of the addict’s loved ones in Intervention offers a look into how addiction affects an addict’s loved ones. Intervention doesn’t glamorize drug and alcohol dependency for plot points in the way that other drama shows do, offering a raw look into the destructive power of addiction for everyone involved.
- Mom is a comedy on CBS about a sober single mom and her estranged mother who is also struggling with addiction. Allison Janney and Anna Faris play the mother-daughter duo navigating how to repair their relationship while trying to pull their own lives together. Mom is one of few shows that emphasizes addiction recovery rather than active addiction and demonstrates the obstacles individuals face in navigating sobriety without getting weighed down by the despair or denial of addiction. Mom approaches recovery as it is, a difficult life-long healing process, with characters who endure setbacks but approach sobriety with hope and determination.
- HBO’s teen dramaEuphoriapremiered in 2019 and almost instantly became wildly popular thanks to its raw portrayal of teenage mental illness and substance abuse. The show follows 17-year-old Rue Bennet who is a recovering drug addict as she returns home from rehab and attempts to navigate high school. Euphoria’s visuals and acting are alluring, and the show has received praise for its empathetic but brutally honest depiction of the challenges of addiction.
- Freeform’s Recovery Road is another teen drama series about addiction that follows Maddie, a high functioning 17-year-old addict, as she navigates teenage life after deciding to live at a sober living facility. Based on a popular novel by the same name, Recovery Road one ran for one season in 2016, but offers portrayals of various topics related to substance abuse and recovery including teen partying, the benefits of 12-step meetings, and the consequences of substance abuse.
- Love is a Netflix comedy show about navigating modern relationships that quietly depicts two individuals, Mickey and Gus, struggling with addiction. Addiction is not the main focus of the show, but it is prevalent. Mickey abuses alcohol and prescription medications and then tries to stay sober, but smokes before AA meetings, lies to her sponsor, and struggles with the urge to resist drinking or using drugs. However, Mickey never truly reaches an explosive rock bottom as so many other shows depict, sensationalizing addiction. Instead, addiction prevents Mickey from connecting with others and living a fulfilling life. The dark, quirky humor of Love might be too much for some, but others enjoy the honest portrayal of non-sensationalized addiction.
- Showtime’s comedy-drama show Shameless depicts a family that is poor and dysfunctional as a result of their single father’s alcoholism. The show balances portraying the compulsive and damaging behaviors of addicts with comedy while shedding light on the impact of addiction on families through Frank Gallagher’s actions and their consequences for his six children. Shameless can at times be over-the-top and far-fetched, but it’s often a realistic portrayal of a less-than-functioning addict and his family’s struggle to take care of him and make ends meet. The show offers an honest and eye-opening depiction of the impact of addiction on everyone, not just the addict.
Get Sober With Soba Recovery
While Hollywood has at times exploited addiction for ratings, more and more shows are trying to take an increasingly nuanced approach to addiction whether it be by portraying non-stereotypical characters, depicting the effects of addiction as a family disease, or focusing on lesser told stories of recovery. The diversification of television shows depicting addiction help break down taboo about addiction itself and open up conversations about it. Few of these shows shy away from the gory details of drug and alcohol use, abuse, and dependency, so be mindful watching if you are personally recovering and struggling with these sorts of triggers. Otherwise, enjoy watching these shows whether you find yourself critiquing them or reflecting because of them!
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or substance abuse, please reach out to us today at Soba Recovery. We can treat a wide range of addictions at either of our two locations in Arizona or Texas. We look forward to helping you with your addiction!