Learn / 2023 Oscar Nominated Movies That Include Addiction
Films and TV shows tend to shape how culture views a certain subject (or profession). Recently, the idea of therapists, mental health, and addiction in pop culture became more mainstream. However, some films and shows do more harm than good—overdramatizing addiction and mental health, or just poorly representing it.
Others capture the rawness, truth and importance of addiction and mental health.
Winning an Oscar for best documentary, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed recounts photographer Nan Goldin’s experience with addiction. She depicts her addiction to prescription painkiller OxyContin, and her frustration with the Sackler family.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed shows that Nan’s addiction began after an injury. Doctors prescribed a common medication at the time, OxyContin – which is highly addictive if taken incorrectly1. It contains oxycodone, which causes a high similar to heroin.
Nan, like many others, became addicted to OxyContin after a perhaps thoughtless pain management plan. Nan formed P.A.I.N.2, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, to “speak for the 250,000 bodies that no longer can.”
The Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, received backlash for pushing OxyContin prescriptions when they perhaps weren’t needed. Nan worked to get museums and other Sackler-supported institutions to publicly separate from the family.
America’s opioid crisis may have begun with overprescription of pain meds3, but it’s since grown for new reasons, like cheap, accessible products. Fentanyl, too, plays a large role in the 1,500 opioid-related deaths per week.
Therapies for opioid addiction could range from talk therapies to contingency management plans, which offer rewards for each step you complete in treatment. Talk therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) will help you work through the thoughts and emotions causing your behaviors. Then, you’ll learn new ways to process and manage what you feel.
You’ll learn coping tools for the future, relapse prevention strategies, and typically engage in an aftercare program to keep you well supported.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed explored prescription medication addiction. Other nominated movies this year blazed new trails, like The Whale.
The Oscars nominated Brendan Fraser for Best Lead Actor. The Whale depicts Charlie’s (Fraser) journey through binge eating, grief, and depression. His coping mechanism began after the death of his partner.
The story highlights the power of grief and the hold of eating disorders, and how they can function as a coping tool. Different characters in the film try to help Charlie, but as it often is, his grief is persistent.
Binge eating is eating without control4—it might feel impossible to stop. Sometimes, after binging, a purge happens; this is the pattern of bulimia nervosa5. You might purge through throwing up, taking laxatives, excessive exercise, or starving yourself. It’s meant to “undo” the binge. Not every binge eater purges, though.
Binge eating might be your coping tool, especially if you’re dealing with something as powerful as grief.
Depression is a stage of grief6, as proposed by Kübler-Ross. In The Whale, Charlie mourns the loss of his partner, who died by suicide. Depression became a strong stage in his mourning.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide or self-harm, you can call or text the number 988.
The film suggests binge eating became Charlie’s own way of committing suicide.
There’s help for the millions of others like Charlie. Grief and depression can weigh heavily—sometimes unbearably so. But you do have options to heal.
Complicated grief therapy (CGT)7, for example, can help with grief and all its stages. Using loss- and restoration-focused care, “the therapist works to facilitate the progress of grief to help the client come to terms with the death.”
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help with depression and grief7. Using CBT, your therapist can help you modify your thoughts and change your behaviors. For grief, CBT could help you process your loss in a more productive way.
Both To Leslie and Blonde highlight drug and alcohol addiction. They were also both nominated for Best Leading Actress in the 2023 Oscars. Ana de Armas played Marilyn Monroe in Blonde, and Andrea Riseborough played Leslie in To Leslie.
To Leslie depicts a mother’s struggle with addiction, spurred on by a seemingly-ideal lottery win. Leslie reaches new lows and eventually seeks help for her daughter’s sake and herself.
Blonde retells the life story of Marilyn Monroe, who tragically and famously died after an overdose.
Movies like Blonde make addiction seem almost ritzy—something only people with deep pockets can do. Then, To Leslie goes and proves that wrong. So which is true?
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. In each movie, despite the contrasts in leading women, their reasons for substance abuse were similar. The case remains true for many today. Stressors, mental illnesses, or trauma can start a habit you can’t stop on your own.
Stories like Leslie’s and Monroe’s can help the larger public see this through a cleaner lens. Addiction wasn’t a moral failing of either woman. It was how they coped.
But there’s more than one way to find that same sense of control. Treatment can help you see that.
Depending on your situation, you might find an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or partial hospitalization program (PHP) more suitable. Each of these programs provides effective treatment, and you get to go home at night. IOP is less intensive, usually lasting 3-5 hours a day, while PHP could go for 5-8.
In these treatment settings, you’ll learn relapse prevention skills and work on the thoughts behind your behaviors. Rehabs typically offer a variety of therapies to meet your needs.
You can browse our list of rehabs to see reviews, pricing, and insurance information, and more.
Questions About Oxycontin. (n.d.). Alabama Department of Mental Health. https://mh.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/QuestionsAboutOxycontin.pdf
Brown, K. (2018, October 29). Nan goldin is selling signed prints for $100 to support victims of the opioid crisis. Artnet News. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/aperture-magnum-nan-goldin-1379896
The u. S. Opioid epidemic. (n.d.). Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-opioid-epidemic
Definition & facts for binge eating disorder—Niddk. (n.d.). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/binge-eating-disorder/definition-facts
Bulimia: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2023, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000341.htm
Hamilton, I. J. (2016). Understanding grief and bereavement. The British Journal of General Practice, 66(651), 523. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp16X687325
Wetherell, J. L. (2012). Complicated grief therapy as a new treatment approach. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(2), 159–166. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3384444/
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