Recently, there has been a surge in the re-emergence of the cult-following phenomenon. Television shows are being consumed at a higher and higher rate as streaming becomes the primary mode of digital media consumption.

Breaking Bad is one such television show that has amassed a cult-like following that has grown since the show ended. The show first aired in 2009 and continued to run for five seasons until it ended in 2013. Described as a “neo-western crime drama,” at its highest consumption rate, it had 5.92 million viewers. Now that this show is available for streaming applications such as Netflix, it reaches even more viewers every month.

One of the main aspects of the show was crystal meth—the main character creates a particular version of crystal meth to provide for his family. Of course, the show never outright glorified the drug, yet some have asked if there has been some correlation between the front and whether or not it has facilitated more people abusing the substance.

What is Breaking Bad?

The show is about an overly qualified, depressed high school chemistry teacher named Walter White who discovers he has been diagnosed with severe, untreatable lung cancer. Realizing he has little time left, White reunites with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, and starts cooking and selling medical-grade crystal meth to pay for his hospital bills and leave something behind for his family to live off of after he dies. Of course, nothing ever goes right, especially when dealing with crystal meth and the dangers that illicit drug use imposes.

Every episode would explore the consequences of the actions taken, even if those actions took place several episodes previously. This show also shows many examples of how even when the characters try to solve the problems created by their efforts, those solutions can lead to even more complications, all of which are brought upon the decision to start cooking crystal meth.

What is Crystal Meth?

Crystal meth is a highly addictive stimulant; it’s usually found in crystals or rocks and can be consumed in some ways. It’s very similar to cocaine, yet the sense of euphoria it provides can last up to 12 hours. Because of its ability to keep one focused and in a state of euphoria, many people abuse the substance to get through the day.

People who abuse meth quickly build up a tolerance to it, meaning they have to use more of it to get the same effects. This is where abuse turns to addiction because, soon, the need to get high becomes the most essential thing in life; this, coupled with the need to use more, leaves many susceptible to overdosing.

There are many physical and psychological side effects of overdosing, including excessive sweating, severe agitation, over-reactive reflexes, muscle tension, paranoia, hallucinations, and sometimes permanent psychosis.

Luckily there is hope; recovery treatment for substance abuse is available to anyone who realizes they need help. Although it may be challenging to picture a life without crystal meth, you must rid yourself of it to live a fulfilling life.

Breaking Bad and Increased Drug Abuse

Since the show’s initial release and subsequent success, many people have claimed that the show has influenced people to use the substance. Across the United Kingdom and Europe, there has been a shocking rise in crystal meth usage.

Professor Ellis Cashmore, an author on celebrity and media culture, says that the show promotes interest in the substance, even though it doesn’t do anything to glamorize it. Although there is no inherent glorification, Cashmore states, “The fact [crystal meth] is a central premise to almost the entire series would boost this interest in people who perhaps had not encountered it before.”

In November 2013, the year of the show’s finale, the UK border patrol seized crystal meth on an estimated 252 separate occasions, rising from 61 seizures the year before. Before the show began airing internationally, very few people in the country knew what crystal meth was.

An interesting contrast is that in the United States, during the years Breaking Bad aired, crystal meth use had seemingly decreased. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2006, about 731,000 people aged 12 and older reportedly used crystal meth, but in 2012 only around 440,000 people of the same age group allegedly used the substance. Hence, while still high, there was a marked decrease in crystal meth use.

All of this is circumstantial, and more research needs to be done to see the real effects of whether the show has contributed to increased drug abuse rates. There is no doubt that the show does everything that it can to avoid glorifying the characters who do use and sell this drug. The characters aren’t made out to be heroes but real people who suffer the consequences of their actions.

While many characters are shown using crystal meth, the show offers the consequences of using and selling these drugs, whether that means jail time, medical complications, or even death.

Some characters enter rehab and try to remain sober despite their addictions and the complications they endure. This show doesn’t shy away so much from the sobering reality of what a drug as addictive as crystal meth can do to a person mentally and physically.

It’s sort of a reflection of the natural world; while no one is making a machine gun rigged to a car, there are consequences when dealing with drugs. And although it appears that the show may have something to do with the increased awareness of crystal meth, it also shows the consequences of it.