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Glamorizing Substance Use Has Real-Life Consequences

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Glamorizing substance use has become the norm today.  Movies, music, social media, magazines, and websites exploit the profitability of this type of content continuously.  Substance use, profanity, bloodshed, violence, sex, nudity, and perversion of all types can be viewed any time day or night.

A few decades ago, entertainment standards were high.  Movies and television programs were prohibited from containing profanity or nudity.  We saw cowboys shooting each other, but there was no blood.  Over time, things progressed, or maybe regressed would be a better word.  

How Social Media Encourages Substance Use

Long before the internet and social media came along, Americans already had problems with drug and alcohol abuse.  For centuries, it has been considered normal to serve alcoholic beverages or drugs at social gatherings.

Nowadays, many teens and adults cannot imagine going to a party or other social gathering without drinking.  They’ve been influenced by videos on social media that glamorize substance use.  Partying and getting drunk are portrayed as great ways to have a good time.

Teens who regularly use social media are more likely to use drugs, drink alcohol, and buy tobacco, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. 

The rates of teens who use social media more than once a day:

>  71% use Facebook

>  52% use Instagram

>  41% use Snapchat

>  33% use Twitter

>  24% use Tik Tok

>  14% use Tumbler

Studies show that about 75% of teenagers used substances as a result of seeing videos and photos on social media sites.  In general, 90% of teens who saw these types of images or videos were under 16 years old when they first saw them.

Social media is also a convenient platform for the tobacco, alcohol, and e-cigarette industries to market their products to youth.

Are Television and Movies Glamorizing Substance Use?

Glamorizing Substance UseWhen actors use substances in movies or television shows, we only see one side of the story.  Unfortunately, the real-life effects of substance use are rarely explored.  Many people don’t realize that the scenes are not true representations of substance abuse.  

The prevalence of substance use in movies and television is shocking.  While the substances in movies are fake, the message conveyed is very real.  Here are a few examples:

  • “Breaking Bad” – A television series about a high school chemistry teacher who decides to cook and sell crystal meth to fund his cancer treatment.  He partners with a former student and they make a lot of money.  
  • “Weeds” – A series about a widow who begins selling marijuana to help her support her kids.  She involves her two sons in the venture and they rake in some substantial profits.
  • “House”– A TV series about a doctor that is addicted to Vicodin due to chronic leg pain.  The message here is that even professionals can use drugs and still function.
  • “Scarface” – A movie about a successful drug cartel.  The lead actor snorts cocaine repeatedly throughout the movie.  The movie depicts that a person can achieve power and wealth by trafficking drugs.
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street”– A movie about a stockbroker who is addicted to drugs and alcohol.  Throughout the movie, he is shown abusing substances repeatedly.  The movie inaccurately demonstrates that using drugs and alcohol won’t prevent a person from becoming financially successful.

In addition to these examples, there are many films, television series, and songs that glamorize substance abuse

How Celebrities Are Glamorizing Substance Use

When we think of the entertainment industry and celebrities, we envision designer clothes, expensive cars, and a glamorous lifestyle.  The only problem with this image is that celebrities are frequently seen socializing at venues where drugs and alcohol are abundant. In fact, celebrities and substance use has a tremendous impact on young people.

Young people are easily led to believe that success and status gives a person the right to use substances.  They may also believe that if celebrities can abuse drugs and alcohol without consequences, so can they.

Understanding the difference between how drugs are portrayed and the real-life effects is crucial today more than ever.  

Entertainment Industry Substance Use Statistics

Statistics like these illustrate a worrying trend:

  • Alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are present in about one-half of all music videos.
  • On television, one drinking scene is depicted every 22 minutes, one smoking scene every 57 minutes, and an illicit drug scene every 112 minutes.
  • About ⅓ of all drinking scenes on television are portrayed as humorous.  Less than ¼ of drinking scenes depict negative consequences.
  • About 71% of prime-time television involves programs that show alcohol use, and 20% mention illicit drug use.  Tobacco use is depicted in about 19%, and 3% depict drug use.
  • On social media, about 40% of the profiles mention substance abuse.

Decreasing our exposure to the glamorization of substance use won’t be easy, but doing so could have a positive effect on society as a whole. 

Design for Change Recovery Knows the Real Life Facts About Addiction

Regardless of the reasons why you began using drugs or alcohol, we can help you break free.  At Design for Change Recovery, we understand the powerful influences that can lead a person to use drugs or alcohol.  Our program is designed to treat each client as an individual with their own unique needs.  

Contact our Lancaster, CA facility today to learn how our effective, customized treatment programs will help you conquer addiction.  


  • – Movie Exposure to Alcohol Cues and Adolescent Alcohol Problems: A Longitudinal Analysis in a National Sample
  • – Digital Media and Risks for Adolescent Substance Abuse and Problematic Gambling
  •– Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Top-Grossing American Films
  • – Alcohol, Tobacco, and Illicit Substances in Music Videos: A Content Analysis of Prevalence and Genre
Glamorizing Substance Use Has Real-Life Consequences