Breaking Bad Made a Great Case Against The Use of Crystal Meth

Breaking Bad Made a Great Case Against The Use of Crystal Meth

Posted May 13, 2014 by Talbot Rehab

Breaking Bad Made a Great Case Against The Use of Crystal Meth


lds addiction equine recovery programIt would be hard to argue that popular media has no effect at all on the choices of teens and young adults in America. And yet, a few times every year we see studies pop up and say that either television, video games, and movies are destroying the youth of today, and then a few weeks or months later, we’ll see another study pop up that says these things have no effect on kids whatsoever. As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. A TV show is probably not going to make an otherwise good kid get up and start manufacturing crystal meth (or go find it to for his own personal use for that matter). But maybe the portrayal does demystify it a little bit. It makes it more real. Less exotic. And, possibly, more attainable. So what do parents of teens and young adults have to worry about when their kids watch this show?

Breaking Bad was a TV show about a chemistry professor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. Having little in the way of savings to leave his family, he decides to start cooking crystal meth in order to earn some money to leave them a nest egg, but shortly becomes embroiled in a dark and murderous drug underworld, refusing to stop until he becomes a Scarface-like international drug kingpin. It is a story of haunting moral ambiguity. To my mind, its protagonist, Walter White, is clearly shown as an immoral, craven lunatic. And yet, right up until the show’s very last episode, plenty of fans were still rooting for his success. However, that’s an issue for another day.

What we’re here to talk about today is the unflinching brutality and realism that the show managed to evoke in its portrayal of crystal meth. It is force of danger and chaos with the power to destroy lives utterly and completely.

Crystal meth abuse has reached epidemic proportions in some corners of the United States. It has ruined countless lives and ripped families apart. The drug is relatively cheap and readily available in towns and cities both large and small.

Users of crystal meth, sometimes called ‘tweakers’, develop an all-consuming obsession with the drug. The addiction taking over every cell of their being until there’s very little of the person left inside his or her sore-encrusted, withered body, a mere husk of its former, healthy self after even just a short period of addiction. In this respect, users of crystal meth can sometimes resemble the zombies from another AMC show, The Walking Dead.

There Is No Glamor to the Way Meth is Depicted on Breaking Bad

Usually, Breaking Bad stuck with its two main characters. Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, a former pupil of his, is also a recovering meth addict himself. Jesse’s struggles with the drug are central to his story’s arc, and give us the first glimpse of how the show views meth addicts. Meth is a force that will prevent you from ever finding success until you are able to escape from its soul-crushing grasp. Jesse is about 1/4 of a person until he is able to overcome his meth addiction. Granted, in the world of the show, what that means is that he’s empowered to become a better cook of methamphetamine, but still, it’s a first step toward depicting the power the drug holds over its users.

When the show is allowed to veer away from the lab to show us the effects of the drug Walt and Jesse are making up close, usually through the eyes of two characters, minor dealers, Badger and Skinny Pete, a kind of crystal meth version of Shakespeare’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, what we see is a portrait of a war zone.

How we see the effects of crystal meth

We see tweakers, zombified, wandering shirtless through strip mall parking lots at four o’clock in the morning, we see motel room doors left open, televisions blaring. We see petty thieves who look like castoffs from a post-apocalyptic settlement, using knives to stick up other tweakers up for pocket change.

This is a world where characters steal light bulbs to smoke out of from gas station bathrooms. It is a world without hope. Most of the addicts depicted in this show are far past the point where anyone is left in their lives who can reach out to offer help. Most of these people probably do not have very long to live, and will probably not find much happiness in their short lives.

The show presents two sides of Albuquerque, New Mexico. One is that of a typical mid-sized city, with suburban homes that are the genuine embodiment of middle-class American success. The other, a dark and destroyed world in which all of the hope has been drained, like a color picture that’s turned brown with age, sitting, forgotten in the sunlight. But what it really shows us, is that the barrier that separates these two worlds is microscopically thin. That at any moment, someone in our life could slip away and be lost to the other side forever.

No one who watches Breaking Bad comes away from the experience thinking, ‘gee, crystal meth sure seems like a good time.’ It is depicted as a bringer of pain, an agent of ruin; a drug that can bring Hell to earth for those who fall under its spell.

So while the moral dimensions of the show, which, admittedly, do often exist in a very, very dark gray area, may be questioned, it’s commitment to showing crystal meth in a true light could never be disputed.

filed under: Drug Abuse