The wildly popular television show, Breaking Bad, follows the life of Walter White a high school chemistry teacher who begins making meth to pay for his costly cancer treatments. The recently completed its final season and has been nominated for an impressive 42 primetime Emmy awards while securing 10 wins in addition to numerous other awards. In spite of critical acclaim and popularity among viewers, some would argue that its portrayal of meth use makes the dark world of addiction too familiar and almost normal to the audience.
Blake Ewing of Austin, Texas argues that Breaking Bad, while not glorifying the use of meth or making it attractive, does normalize the idea of the drug for a large group of people that otherwise would know very little about it. He says that because of the show, millions of Americans now have an emotional connection to the main characters who are deeply involved in the world of meth. He believes this new sense of familiarity with the drug could be inherently dangerous. Ewing argues that the show makes meth use seem normal enough to potentially attract people on the margins of society to begin using the drug.
The television show focuses on the main character, Walter White and his younger partner Jesse Pinkman. While White only uses drugs once throughout the entire show, Jesse is seen using meth and even heroin in many of the episodes. Other characters are meth addicts and dealers and the main characters are constantly shown making and distributing meth in their own community. While the events of the show may have seemed shocking and gritty initially, Breaking Bad has become so entrenched in our culture that the stories of meth use become more commonplace the more people watch it. The show is now the subject of water cooler talk in the workplace for Americans.
Law enforcement officers that work closely with meth users and dealers in areas with serious narcotics problems are often troubled by the show and some even refuse to watch it. They have witnessed enough of what the drug does to its users and who always become addicts to feel concerned about the possibly negative effects of the show. Those who watch the television show know that it does not portray meth use as attractive in anyway and does intend to show the kind of self-destruction that can result from having a meth addiction. However, instead of being directly affected by real meth addiction through friends or family members and seeing the reality of the drug viewers become desensitized by the fictional stories on the show.
Ewing says that it is not likely that responsible adults will even be tempted to try a drug like meth after watching the show. But the show has begun to permeate our culture in so many ways that he sees a strong possibility of those on the margins of society at least attempting to use the drug out of a sense of morbid curiosity. He worries about the long-term effects that Breaking Bad’s popularity will have on our culture and the way people view meth use and addiction. He is always aware that there are real consequences for using a drug like meth. For the people who are addicted to the drug it is a miserable reality that they must face every day and not a thrilling TV drama. Though the show has ended, it had enough of an impact on fans of the series that it will continue to be talked about and still affect people long after the final season.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.