When drugs are abused, they are a threat in every way. The story of drug abuse and dependence has been told through the medium of film. This issue is depicted in the film Blow, which stars John Depp as George Jung. This article provides a synopsis of the film, examines its accuracy in depicting drug abuse, considers how the film might be used in substance abuse care, and ends with a personal evaluation of the film.
The film begins with a young George Jung (Johnny Depp) and his parents, Ray Liotta and Rachel Griffiths. Depp’s mother is concerned about her son’s financial situation and continues to bother Liotta. Depp decides upfront that he would not want a future as bleak as his dad’s.
Depp then moves to Southern California with a friend ‘Tuna’. They do not secure real jobs so Tuna suggests that they sell pot. Derek Foreal, a dealer helps them acquire and supply it. They then extend their trade to Boston. Mexican druglords help them import the drugs using small airplanes. Depp gets busted in Chicago and is due for a two-year jail term but his girlfriend Franka Potente is dying of cancer. He skips bail to care for her but she dies. While visiting his parents in Boston, he gets busted again and is sentenced to three years in Jail. He meets Diego in jail, a Colombian cocaine dealer. After his jail time, he meets Pablo Escobar and becomes an importer bringing cocaine to the US. He marries Penelope Cruz (Mirtha), a Colombian beauty. Depp gets shot during a drug deal and later quits the trade after he is double-crossed by Diego. He soon discovers he is broke all his money has been confiscated by the government.
Depp and Cruz get a beautiful daughter, but coke addiction complicates family life. The disagreement about money he witnessed in his youth replays when Cruz goes into a tirade about money in front of his daughter. He later throws a party and the FBI show up and he sacrifices himself to have them freed. After jail, he tries one more time but is again double-crossed and jailed up to 2015. In jail, he loses his mind slowly thinking of his failure as a man. The final scene shows him imagining his grown-up daughter visiting him.
The film ends as Depp walks out of the garden, a crazy old man. The final image is that of the real George Jung and we learn his daughter never contacted him.
Movie accuracy in portraying drug use and accuracy to the textbook
The movie was relatively successful in portraying drug abuse. Since it is more of a biography, the events in the movie reveal to a large extent reality. George Jung and Pablo Escobar are real drug dealers and the Medellin drug cartel has existed. From the late 70’s to the early 80’s, the named individuals and cartel actually brought cocaine to the USA. The movie travels the journey of Jung. It follows his best and worst moments as a drug distributor, user, and abuser before he ends up in jail.
At the start of the movie, Jung clearly indicates his disdain for poverty. When he sees his father and mother express hopelessness over lack of money, this instills in him a desire to never suffer like that. However, as the film progresses, we realize that the use of drugs is not only addictive but also a lifestyle for him and many others involved in this illicit trade, (Demme, 2001). By comparison, all drugs whether used for medical or nonmedical purposes often become a burden to the user if abused. A major factor to contend with is upbringing and indeed poverty can and has led many to drug abuse.
Marijuana and cocaine are hard, abused drugs depicted in the movie. Marijuana is shown to be dangerous to both distributors and users because of its addictive nature. Cocaine is depicted as a ‘glamorous’ drug favored by the rich and mighty, (Demme, 2001). Indeed, pop-culture is a poster-child for drugs use. The reality that rehabilitation centers have attended to and continue to deal with famous people like Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen is telling in that the consequences of drug abuse cannot be escaped by anyone no matter their status. Nonetheless, pop-culture and its icons continue to unrealistically portray addiction. Scenes that show marijuana and cocaine abuse are consistent with the reality that risky behavior and drug abuse go hand in hand.
One scene shows the purity of cocaine and how it can be ‘cut’ when sold. When consumed, it is shown to have a numbing effect on the body. Indeed, at the beginning of Jung’s addiction, his life appears somewhat unaffected and he looks healthy, (Demme, 2001). Many cocaine users initially lose the sense of reality and imagine that that is all the effect of cocaine, feeling good. The presentation shown in the movie is a correct depiction of the deception that many cocaine users are subjected to before they start abusing the drug. However, the reality is different, and for Jung, as depicted by Depp, the deception does not last long in spite of the purity.
As Jung continues to use drugs, a number of consequences begin to show up. First, he loses all his money. Then, his relationship with the wife and daughter Kristina Sunshine becomes strained. Thirdly, it is evident that his wife Mirtha is also addicted. Lastly, he is busted and goes to jail for the third time in his life. In the movie, Mirtha is depicted as loud, uncontrollable, impulsive and without self-control (Demme, 2001). This is largely true when it comes to drug abuse where users often depict the above symptoms as their addiction becomes stronger. Although the symptoms may slightly vary depending on the drug used, it is clear that the end result is often a disaster to the individual, family, and conflict with the law.
The movie is therefore realistic and positively against drug abuse. It conveys the seriousness of drug cravings, and the determination by those addicted to feeding such cravings, no matter how illegal or damaging to relationships their strategies may be. The story of Jung shows that in the criminal drug world, friends are few and that family is a precious gift one should not forfeit. Despite the high stakes drama portrayed, the highs of drug abuse pale in significance as compared to the lows.
In comparison with our textbook, there are several points of convergence with regard to using movies to deal with drug issues. The authors first argue that….. They also consider ….. Their view that…. (Ksir, Ray & Hart, 2008). Based on these views, it suffices to consider the book supportive of using movies to complement initiatives aimed at resolving drug issues.
Use in substance abuse treatment and with clients
Dependence on drugs is a serious challenge that has to be approached considerations aimed at achieving a positive outcome. Movies can be engaged to clarify and educate those individuals who are addicted. It is possible to explore cinema to debunk popular myths and stereotypes regarding drug usage in order to improve therapeutic commitment to addiction recovery medicine and procedures. However, care has to be taken so as not to encourage negative perceptions that are commonly seen in films. In this regard, this movie can help in substance abuse treatment under controlled circumstances.
The compelling nature of this film means that it can construct or maintain individual views on drug use. In truth, addictions nowadays are more of an expectation rather than an exception. Many drug users are likely to be consuming drugs at levels that are harmful to their health. It is also likely that new initiates are younger, abuse multiple substances and women are increasingly getting involved as demonstrated in the movie.
As a result, drug addiction remains a strange and many cannot understand how a good person can behave badly. The stigmatization faced by drug addicts leads to the negative view that the problems are self-inflicted and therefore do not deserve health intervention. This is incorrect. Movies can play a role-reversing these views especially among clients.
A client who watches this movie might find some portrayals of cocaine abuse embellished and doubtful. However, they might strongly identify with the hero and possibly accept with uncertainty the processes and context of drug use as portrayed in the movie. Another problem associated with drug users is that of violence. On many occasions in the movie, heinous acts of violence occur and this depicts drug-fuelled savagery. As a result, many misfortunes befall Jung. A client watching such scenes is likely to be captivated. This experience is likely to detach the viewer from reality. Through such engagement, the movie can be a powerful tool for teaching on the harm of drug abuse. Likewise, the movie can be used to help in reframing problems, provide role models, and help affected individuals reprioritize ideals and other benefits. This can easily be achieved if the client is directed to relevant scenes in the movie. If this is accompanied by other interventions, chances of a positive change are possible.
It is necessary for drug users to be made aware of the false sense of security that they undergo in the process of healing. Their observation of the instances in which Depp and Cruz act like people in stupor should be able to point out the lies of drug abuse. Instead, it can be used to explain dangers that users expose themselves to in that state including possible death.
In my view, I would not hesitate to use the movie in the therapy of adult clients. My aim in doing so would be motivated by the desire to dissuade clients from consuming drugs. Movies are powerful and influential; their universal appeal makes them a useful tool in aiding the process of behavior change.
How did the movie affect you personally? Did your view of addiction or the drug change as a result of seeing the film?
Demme, T. (2001). Blow. Hollywood: New Line Cinema.
Ksir, C., Ray, O., & Hart, C. (2008). Drugs, society, and human behavior (12th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.