When we think about drugs, the social imaginary leads us to think about drug trafficking, illegal practices and even marginality. However, drugs are not just that: With the advancement of science, and especially of medicine, different substances became part of the repertoire of doctors to treat different conditions despite the risk of addiction they implied for patients.
Without going any further, if we think about the origins of cocaine, one of the most widely consumed illegal drugs today and against which a war is waged to prevent its trafficking, it began simply as a medicine. Among its applications, it was used to treat morphine dependence, as an anesthetic and even Sigmund Freud he used it to treat his patients. Until the Coke included coca leaves in his first recipe! The passage of time demonstrated its unfortunate effects and, little by little, it became the illegal drug that we all know today.
The Knickdirected by Steven Soderbergh premiered in the 2014 and starring Clive Owen It shows very well the development of cocaine within the field of medicine. The series, set in a hospital in NY in it 1900where doctors and surgeons try to make progress to reduce mortality rates, has as its main character a doctor (based on the historical figure of William Stewart Halsted) brilliant who, by experimenting with cocaine, ends up becoming addicted.
The cocaine example is just one of several that intertwine medicine with addiction. Currently, among the eight most addictive legal drugs, six have to do with medicine. Of course, the first two are alcohol and nicotine, but then on that list come opiates, benzodiazepines, cough syrup, and steroids, among others. The cinema and television have not been oblivious to this advance of the so-called “legal drugs” and their link with medicine.
In it 2021 one of the great premieres of Hulu was the series Dopesick, starring Michael Keatonwhich was based on the nonfiction book by Beth Macy Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America. In this series (and in the book, of course) the story of how the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma managed to convince an entire country that opiates were not dangerous through the marketing of OxyContin (the pills that covered opioids with a protective film for their slow dissolution in the body). The damage wrought by this deception was massive: to this day throughout the world, opioid addiction is one of the most severe and difficult to curb.
Among the opiates we can also find, in addition to OxyContinal Vicodina drug that became popular as an addictive substance thanks to another television character: the wonderful Doctor House. House premiered in the 2004 and it also shows us the inseparable links between medicine and legal drugs. In this series of Foxits protagonist, the Dr. Gregory House He is not only an eminence diagnosing all kinds of mysterious diseases, but also a bitter addict whose addiction, on many occasions, led him to isolation, misery and loneliness. No matter his genius or his professional success: his addiction is capable of leading him to ruin. And how did his addiction start? With a treatment for the pain in his leg, in which he suffered an aneurysm that later clotted.
In this line we also find the series Nurse Jackiestarring Edie Falco that shows us the life of a nurse in a hospital in NY and the juggling that he must do to survive day by day the rhythm that this life imposes on him. Among the tricks up the sleeve that the cunning nurse has Jackie there is the use and abuse of two legal substances: one, the Vicodinthe same drug Dr. House and, the other, the Adderallone of the drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The Adderall and other similar drugsRitalin, The concertetc.) have also become a problem, despite being legal drugs: more and more people use them to achieve high levels of concentration, such as students to take their most difficult exams.
Already in the plane of science fiction but not so far from reality, we can find the film Limitlesspremiered in the 2011. In it, a writer who suffers a block (Bradley Cooper) starts taking an experimental drug called NZT that allows you to tap into your full cognitive potential. Of course, the consumption of this drug is not free: the side effects become more and more serious, the addiction more and more and the legal dangers more and more severe.
Seeing these examples on the big and small screen is interesting, especially when we relate them to the famous “war on drugs” that is taking place throughout the world.. While illegal drugs are demonized, in the legal circuit there are many others that generate the same dependency and the same consequences (or even worse) about which not much is said. While it is true that the circuit of illegality generates other atrocities (related to drug trafficking, exploitation, etc.), the ease with which certain legal drugs are obtained through medicine is worrisome.
Seeing the effects they produce, should we also wage war against them? Or should we tolerate them because they also have a positive effect if used properly? What decides whether a drug is legal or not? These are the questions that, thanks to the fact that cinema and television are encouraged to show the effects and links between legal drugs and medicine, we can ask ourselves to begin a reflection that will help us to change the world (even if it is ours). .