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Drug addiction and alcoholism has been a problem for mankind for thousands of years, but up until recently those who struggled with substance abuse were viewed in a very negative light. Just 60 years ago, those who suffered from alcoholism were simply put into sanitariums and swept under the rug by society. Thankfully, over the past 20-30 years, the way addiction has been viewed has dramatically changed. One reason for this change in perspective is due to the attention that this disease has gotten in Hollywood. Hundreds of movies have had their stories based around addiction and alcoholism, some of them would glorify the use of drugs and alcohol, while others showed the dark reality that is addiction. 

Showing substance abuse for the beast that it is will help those who are not struggling to understand what it is like to be an addict or alcoholic. The reality is that a lot of these movies don’t have happy endings, as is the case for many addicts. Inspiration can come in many forms, yes there are movies that will inspire you by showing how the human spirit can triumph over impossible odds but there also movies that can inspire you to change because of the dark road that can lay ahead if nothing changes. This list of inspiring movies about addiction will touch base on both sides of that. 

Drugstore Cowboy 

Directed by Gus Van Sant this movie follows Bob Hughes played by Matt Dillion. “This moody, surreal drama follows a loose group of young drug addicts as they move from town to town, robbing pharmacies to support their habits. When one of their lot dies of an overdose, however, their leader decides to get sober, but finds the road to rehabilitation extremely challenging.” Drugstore Cowboy doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to showing how heroin addiction can completely control one’s life. It definitely deposits heroin/opiate addiction for what it is and doesn’t sugar coat it.  

Requiem for a Dream

Probably one of the most well-known movies about addiction, Requiem for a Dream wants to hit you hard and it does. This movie will sit with you for some time, so get the tissues ready. Darren Aronofsky directs this movie with the intent of making you feel uncomfortable and to feel the pain of the addicts who the story revolves around. “This gritty drama concerns four people trapped by their addictions. Harry (Jared Leto), and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) are impoverished heroin addicts living in Coney Island, NY, while Harry’s girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) is a fellow addict trying to distance herself from her wealthy father. Harry dreams of scoring a pound of smack, from which he could make enough money to open a clothing boutique with Marion, but so far he and his friends can barely scrape by supporting their own habits. Meanwhile, Harry’s mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn), who spends her days watching television, is told she has the opportunity to appear on her favorite game show; wanting to lose enough weight to fit into her favorite red dress, she visits a sleazy doctor who gives her a prescription for amphetamines. Soon Sara has a drug habit of her own that is spiraling out of control.” Once again this movie is heavy, it shows drug use and addiction in the darkest ways. if you are easily bothered by needles and drugs do yourself a favor and stay away.

The Basketball Diaries 

Another heavy movie, this one focuses on heroin addiction. “Jim Carroll (Leonardo DiCaprio) is consumed by his life as a high school basketball star. Pressured by a wicked coach (Bruno Kirby) and a concerned mother (Lorraine Bracco), Jim develops an appetite for heroin. Soon, the mean streets of New York City have replaced the basketball court as his main destination. Jim and his friends scrounge, steal and prostitute themselves to score drugs. Jim’s only chance to escape addiction may be Reggie (Ernie Hudson), a neighborhood friend and hoops companion.“ 


I know this list has been more focused on movies about addiction but “Flight” shows the darkness of alcoholism better than most movies are able to. “Commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) has a problem with drugs and alcohol, though so far he’s managed to complete his flights safely. His luck runs out when a disastrous mechanical malfunction sends his plane hurtling toward the ground. Whip pulls off a miraculous crash-landing that results in only six lives lost. Shaken to the core, Whip vows to get sober — but when the crash investigation exposes his addiction, he finds himself in an even worse situation.” While this movie is very heavy it also has a bit of a lighter side to it. 

Half Nelson 

Probably the least recognizable name on the list “Half Nelson” does a great job of showing how addiction can affect everyone. “Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is a history teacher at a Brooklyn school. Though well-liked by his students and colleagues, he secretly spends his evenings hopping bars and getting high. A female student named Drey (Shareeka Epps) catches him in a drug-induced haze after a basketball game and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. As Dan struggles with his addiction, he tries to act as a mentor to the girl, whose brother is serving time for dealing drugs.” This movie is a drama, it wants to hit you and it does. While it can move slow at times it is an amazing character study of an addict. 

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If you or someone you care about are currently struggling with substance abuse and would like help, please call our toll-free line today. An addiction specialist is standing by and ready to help you through this difficult time however they can. Calls are always free of charge and your conversation with us is completely confidential. Whether you are just in need of some advice or need help locating a detox center near you, we can help.