The Opioid Crisis: How Have Movies Addressed it?

How have movies address the opioid crisis? Our article explores this topic in detail.

Every day hundreds of people’s lives are ravaged by the opioid epidemic. The epidemic is currently sweeping across the USA. Opioids have managed to tear apart the lives of families and friends. It greatly influences their futures. Nearly everyone knows someone whose life has been impacted in some way by opioid abuse.


The movie and entertainment industry in the USA plays a substantial role in introducing new ideas and thoughts to the American psyche. Cutting edge films have helped normalize new ideas and encourage many to accept them. Helping the American public adjust and adapt to the reality of the opioid crisis is just one example.

Movies, documentaries and TV shows work to capture the impact that opioids have had on the lives of everyday people. They are helping to break down stigmas related to opioid addiction. They are slowly building acceptance and empathy for families who are dealing with trauma derived from these issues.

The Opioid Crisis

Millions of people are negatively impacted by the opioid epidemic every year. It’s estimated that in 2016 and 2017 over 11.4 million people misused prescription opioids. In the same time period, nearly 2.1 million were determined to have developed some form of an opioid misuse disorder. In the USA upwards of 130 people die every single day from an overdose of the highly addictive drug.

Given these statistics, it’s understandable that the USA declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency in 2017. Many are in search of useful solutions such as an increase in additional crisis and recovery centers as well as a removal of criminal sentencing for those suffering from the impacts of opioid addiction. Some have even begun looking for alternative painkillers in substances like medical marijuana.

A significant portion of opioids addicts have been unable to maintain a job or even ties to their families. They lose everything, and many become homeless. Nearly two-thirds of those who are homeless suffer from some sort of addiction or substance abuse problem.

Movies and Opioids

In recent years a number of filmmakers have looked to help people better understand the severe impacts of opioid addiction.  One prime example of this is the movie Ben is Back. The film hit theatres in December 2018. The movie focuses on how one family has been torn apart by an opioid addiction.

Ben is Back

The movie addresses a very real concern for many recovering addicts and their families. It answers the question: “What happens when a recovering addict returns home?”.

In the movie, Ben, a recovering addict, leaves rehab to come home for Christmas with his family. While there, similar temptations and difficulties abound that make the visit difficult both for him and his family.

Movies such as Dreamland take on the opioid crisis in a more theatrical and action-packed manner. The film follows the stories of three very different characters.


They are ultimately brought into collision through drug trafficking and distribution. The film addresses many of the complex socio-economic issues related to addiction and drug use that make it an even more difficult problem to adequately tackle.

Building Empathy and Support

The hope of many of these films is to reduce the incredibly powerful stigmas associated with drug addiction and help those watching to better understand the profound struggles that many go through. It’s hoped that better solutions can be developed and fewer lives will be lost.

Heroin(e) (which was recently released on Netflix) works to exemplify this exact thing. The show addresses how an opioid crisis can take over and greatly impact an entire town by following the stories of three women in the community who are attempting to do what they can to help addicts recover, or even survive.


The goal is to show the real human struggle associated with addiction. Addiction can impact even the strongest people. Breaking down stigmas can be the first step towards ending the crisis.

In fact, many drug addiction specialists and psychiatrists are in favor of the movie and entertainment industry spotlighting many of the issues and complicated problems associated with the opioid epidemic.

They believe that portrayals of addiction can have a far greater impact on changing stigmas than a lecture ever could. This is because humans have a greater ability to sympathize with something they can see and feel. This causes humas to develop an understanding of the topic.

The opioid epidemic is a serious crisis. It has upended the lives of many people in the Midwest and other parts of the USA. The entertainment industry is beginning to address this issue. The industry is releasing many movies that address the epidemic.

Doing so can be a powerful means of diminishing stigmas associated with addiction and build empathy that could ultimately lead to a solution.

Watch this space for updates in the Movies category on Running Wolf’s Rant.


Staff Writer

Running Wolf's Rant's correspondent who chooses to remain anonymous...

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