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What Effect has Breaking Bad Had on Crystal Meth Abuse?

Recently, there has been a surge in the reemergence 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.

One such television show that has amassed a cult-like following that has seemingly grown since the television show has ended is Breaking Bad. 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, had a total of 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 special 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 sort of correlation between the show and whether or not it has facilitated in 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 finds out that he has been diagnosed with severe, untreatable lung cancer. Realising 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 explores 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 the form of 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 begin to abuse the substance to get them through the day.

People who abuse meth quickly build up a tolerance to it, meaning that they have to use more of it to get the same effects as before. 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 realises they need help. Although it may be difficult to picture a life without crystal meth, it’s necessary to rid yourself of it if you want 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 start using 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 glamorise it. Although there is no inherent glorification, Cashmore states, “The fact [crystal meth] is a central premise to almost the entire series would serve to 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 in an estimated 252 separate occasions, which had risen from 61 seizures the year before. Before the show began airing internationally, very few people in the country hadn’t even known what crystal meth was.

An interesting contrast is that in the United States, during the years in which 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, so 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 rates of drug abuse, 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 rather real people who suffer the consequences of their actions.

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

There are also characters who enter rehab, and who try to remain sober in the face of 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 both mentally and physically.

It’s sort of a reflection of the real 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.

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