Essay on Drug and Alcohol Addiction
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Essay on Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the Media
Every day the media offers tons of information about drug and alcohol abuse – TV news, movies, talk shows, newspapers tell us thousands of stories of people suffering from substance abuse. The media actually favors the topic – there is enough drama and lesson to attract the target audience of every age group. The influence of media can not be underestimated. It gives knowledge and hope for those who have faced the trouble of substance abuse one way or another.
Roberts, Henricksen and Christiansson (1999) found that in the 200 most popular movies in 1996 and 1997, alcohol and tobacco were depicted approximately in 90 percent, while illicit drugs (marijuana and cocaine mentioned most often) featured in 22 percent of rentals. 1,000 most popular songs of the same period of time mentioned either alcohol or illicit drugs in 27 percent of cases.
The media is determined to either inform, draw your attention to the problem or to teach a lesson (make an impact), it is tailored to influence your opinion and shape your frame of reference. When you watch a story of some heroine drug addict dying of AIDS, you believe you have learned something and feel you have the relevant experience. And millions of those watching the same story feel exactly the way you do.
Each story of substance abuse featuring in media has a problem to deal with and a moral to learn, the problem is – the human perception is so unique that every individual treats the cases in relation to his/her own experience or imagination. The media only provides food for thought, leaving the audience deal with the rest and make the choice.
Although the topic of abuse and addiction is quite delicate, billions of dollars are being invested into the media showing more and more stories, old and new, about people suffering from these problems and making suffer everyone around.
The portrayal of an addict person in the media varies from positive image of a ‘lost’ sufferer to an abusive and aggressive individual hurting others, especially the closest: the family or the beloved. The character of an addict is greatly influenced by the psychological and physical dependence – his or her behavior is determined by either a stage of intoxication or the lack of it.
In the film «When a man loves a woman» the character of Alice Green (Meg Ryan) is a ‘lost’ kind of person. She is a young and beautiful mother of two wonderful girls and a wife to a nice man. But it turns out she has alcohol-dependence that slowly but steadily ruins her life and relationships. Alice is scared and unhappy, she feels uneasy and humiliated and does not find strength to admit she has problems and discuss them with her husband. She drinks vodka, a quart a day, so her husband, Michael Green, “couldn’t smell it”. In fact, it turns out that she secretly sips vodka every time she finds herself alone – at school, at home, even going out with her man, she finds a reason to drop in back home for just a second to take another small drink and feel less anxious.
There is always a culmination of any activity and it’s the same with the addiction. A drug or alcohol addict in unable to control temper and mood, and reaction to the slightest irritation. The children suffer most because they are unable to walk away, move out and protect themselves from domestic abuse of a parent with substance addiction. Substance addictions threaten the life of an addict and the safety of his family. One day such person may just ruin everything that ever mattered to him or her. For Alice Green it happened the day she came back home blind drunk and gave a slap in the face of her elder daughter Jessica, who simply worried whether her mother was fine. But her mother was not, she took vodka after aspirin. In less than an hour Jessica found her mother lying on the bathroom floor naked and unconscious.
The girl thought Alice Green was dead. And that was the turning point of Alice’s addiction. When she decided to quit drinking and undergo detoxification, the challenge became more realistic. Alice had to face severe consequences of addiction, the feeling of loneliness, fear, physical shock of a body getting clean from constant alcohol abuse. The movie shows the importance of support and communication with people who have the same experience and problems, the heeling effect of revelation, discussion, group therapy and family support. The mood of a person undergoing rehabilitation is swinging less, but there may be a depression caused by the fear of failure and letting down the family and the beloved. It is the only real fear an alcoholic can not really overcome. Alice Green’s character is very lucky to overcome the addiction; it took her a lot of strength and effort to do that, not every addict so strong and so lucky. She had all it takes to win – support, strength and desire to quit. Her temper became more balanced, she found a way to reestablish relations with her daughters, and found friends in the group of anonymous alcoholics. Eventually, she even restored relations with her husband, Michael.
The idea of media influence on the hearts and minds of population depends on the effectiveness of the message and the appeal of the story itself. Using the fear appeal is questioned by many experts (Job, 1988), although focus groups typically rate it as highly motivating and effective, while mild and inapplicable appeals are not motivating at all.
For an adult having some relevant experience with substance abuse individuals when the movie about an addict ends well (and it often does), there is always a feeling this might not be “the end”. They just haven’t shown us how the Cinderella let herself go, put on weight and divorced the Prince eventually. Still, most people prefer the stories of such kind to end well, because it gives them not only the knowledge of how to deal with the problems of substance abuse, it also gives them hope.