7 Great Movies About Drug Abuse & Addiction

Number One: Requiem for a Dream

Perhaps one of Darren Aronofsky’s most memorable films, Requiem for a Dream is a classic that has made many viewers think twice about using. And rightfully so. The movie follows characters whose dreams are horrifically crushed by various forms of addiction, and in the end, high hopes are all but lost.

Number Two: Midnight Cowboy

According to the American Film Institute, Midnight Cowboy is one of the 100 greatest films of all time, and for good reason. This movie displays desperate situations becoming further exacerbated by the realities of urban heroin abuse. In addition to winning multiple Academy Awards, Midnight Cowboy was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in 1994.

Number Three: Blow

Adapted from the 1993 Bruce Porter book, Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All, Blow stars Johnny Depp in the memorable role of real-life drug trafficker George Jung. After making it big selling marijuana and going to jail for it, Jung becomes rich smuggling cocaine into the States. As with many stories on this list, however, Jung ultimately pays the price for his efforts in kickstarting the American cocaine market.

Number Four: Trainspotting

Trainspotting’s Mark Renton, played by Ewan McGregor, is a man trying to kick the habit. Despite its dark comedic undertones, Trainspotting shows at its core the classic pitfalls of remaining around your enablers. Despite his best intentions, Renton’s efforts to get clean are only thwarted by allowing crime and abuse back into his life.

Number Five: The Basketball Diaries

The Basketball Diaries is yet another tale of heroine addiction based on real-life events; this time from the perspective of poet and high school basketball star hopeful Jim Carroll. What starts as simple recreational drug use quickly spirals out of control, leading to a problem that sees Carroll engaging in theft, assault, prostitution and more. He’s only able to work his way out of the pit after spending time in Riker’s Island and having the strength to turn down free drugs after his release.   

Number Six: Drugstore Cowboy

Bob Hughes is a superstitious man who finds himself in and out of prison for narcotics use. While he’s not locked up, Hughes leads a group of junkies who rob pharmacies throughout the Pacific Northwest to support their habits and score prescription drugs. When Hughes finally starts contemplating living clean, he finds that it’s likely already far too late.

Number Seven: A Scanner Darkly

Set in a not-so-distant dystopian future, A Scanner Darkly (based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick) tells the story of an undercover detective who gets in over his head. Codenamed “Fred,” the undercover agent sets out to infiltrate a ring of small-time dealers of a powerful new hallucinogen called Substance D. During his investigation, however, Fred finds himself losing his identity as he too succumbs to the drug.


  1. I read your post but I still had some questions.

    I was really wondering, Why do people relapse after leaving
    an addiction treatment center? Is there some way I can avoid it happening to me?
    If there is any insight you could provide, I would greatly appreciate it.

    • Great question! In my experience in supervising at a substance abuse residential treatment center and what the research points to is:


      If someone goes through a 30 day rehab and is sent off to outpatient treatment with very little structure or does not stay in after care 6 to 12 months their potential to relapse increases. The best way to get the most bang for your buck with residential treatment is to really after a solid aftercare plan which would most likely mean transitioning to Intensive Outpatient treatment (generally 3x per week) and then to regular outpatient treatment which generally meets one time per week. In addition, getting a good community of support through AA/NA/Smart Recovery would also stack the deck in your favor. Medication assisted treatment (MAT) (Suboxone, Vivitrol) would be a good follow up for residential treatment especially with opioid addictions as these medications dramatially improve your chances for recovery. Hope that was helpful and thanks for the comment as I imagine others have had some of the same thoughts.

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