Let’s discuss the portrayal of Drug Use on Screen…
No ‘drugs on screen’ list would be complete without the heroin-induced glorious mess that is Trainspotting. Danny Boyle’s wonderfully trippy look into the Scotland’s shooting gallery skag culture has some of the most recognisable scenes and speeches in British cinema but he certainly didn’t skip out on the filth and squalor of heroin addiction. The toilet scene will have you wrenching and if that’s not gross enough the rotating head of head of an infant might be enough to make you check into rehab. The film also tackles the criminality of the addict lifestyle and the horror of withdrawal. The release of the film definitely lined up well with the culture, capturing a tableau of 90s heroin use and the HIV epidemic that cinema simply couldn’t hope to re-create.
This Is England ‘90
In 2015 Shane Meadows delivered up the highly anticipated final instalment of the This Is England saga, and it’s fair to say that the show went out on a dangerous high. Set amid a backdrop of 90s acid house and mad-chester tunes the series follows the lives of former skinheads, this time focussing on the younger members of the group as they get to grips with the darker side of rave culture- namely drugs and sexual exploitation. As well as Shaun, Gadget and Harvey popping E’s like Skittles, prepare for a history lesson in the rise of heroin culture and shooting galleries in ‘90s England. The show also takes a look at the popularity of psychedelics and the rise of folk gatherings in the UK. This haunting series left most fans with a sense of withdrawal when it finished. [Currently streaming on Netflix]
Stacey Dooley Investigates: The War on Drugs
There’s something about sending Stacey Dooley, a friendly ginger lass from Essex, into a Columbian drug den that honestly works. The BBC 3 series follows Dooley around the world as she investigates the war on drugs, looking into the rise of Krokadil, Molly and other party drugs from production to meeting the addicts themselves. Interviews with addicts and those affected are unedited, raw and very real. Whilst the BBC had experimented with drugs documentaries with Theroux, Dooley really went out on location, going into the worst hit areas and drugs dens and delving into all aspects of the fight against drugs. This series will leave you wanting another fix of Dooley’s investigative journalism.
Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio suffered several sinus infections from having to snort copious amounts of cocaine-imitating vitamin C powder while filming his role as disgraced stockbroker Jordan Belfort. From cocaine to crack, and weed to Quaaludes, it appears Belfort did it all and hats off to DiCaprio who acted every manic high and low. The most hilarious and bizarre being a debilitating drug-induced crawl known as the ‘cerebral palsy phase’ after taking highly potent ‘lemon ludes’. The film is a fitting tribute to 80s Miami vice culture and the egotistical rages induced by Wall Street’s cocaine culture.
Jon Snow does skunk: Cannabis on trial
In this clip of internet gold, everyone’s favourite bad ass news anchor blasted a dooby in the interest of science and he threw a whitey, bless him. It went viral because, if nothing else, the British public liked watching one of its faves tripping balls. It demonstrated both the potency of skunk and the feelings of paranoia, nausea and sickness it induces. It was a frank and open look at weed that gave the nation a stark reminder that it’s strong stuff. Addictive watching. [Available on Youtube]
Now admittedly there was a little creative licence involved in this series but it’s still the most accurate look at the rise and fall of drug lord Pablo Escobar on screen. The show flits between the Spanish speaking Narcos (dealers) and the American agents trying to stop them, making the whole experience feel a little more authentic and just that little bit terrifying. Wagner de Moura captures just how controlling Escobar was but he also captures human side to the terrifying Columbian. The series traces the cocaine from the hills of Columbia to the vice ridden streets of Miami and the history of the infamous Medellín cartel. It captures the sex, violence, excess and greed enjoyed by Escobar, even from inside ‘prison’ but it also shows the consequences of his dealing. The new series is set to follow his rivals the Cali Cartel and is looking even more addictive. [Currently streaming on Netflix]
Meth is one of those lesser represented drugs on screen, or it was until Breaking Bad. Now every kid is going as Walter White for Halloween with a bag of blue popping candy to match. The series begins somewhat honestly with Walter, a science teacher, being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and just wanting to leave his wife and disabled son with some money to get by. Just don’t be fooled by that quaint summary, because pretty soon he starts cooking up trouble.