Will watching Breaking Bad trigger my meth addiction?
August 30, 2013 2:53 PM   Subscribe

As a meth addict who hasn't used in 10+ years I've been avoiding watching Breaking Bad. I have seen clips and references to it but I'd like to watch the show because I hear is how great it is and for the most part I'm sure I'd love it.

I'd like to know how much drug use is shown, how "ritualized" it is, and actually how much that blue crystal (I know there's a certain name for it, but in my avoidance of the topic it hasn't stuck with me) is shown in an...enticing (?) way.

I've experienced triggering by portrayals of use before, to the point where I can recall the taste of it and feel it in my lungs (smoking was my preferred method) . It subsides quickly though, and my life is such now that I don't even know where I would get dope if I wanted to relapse.

I don't fear actual relapse as much as I just don't want to torture myself, because from what little I've seen - those blue shards are exactly the type of thing I would have been into.

Knowing that it doesn't actually exist helps a little bit.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, i can only think of 4 or 5 times(Am i forgetting a time with Tuco?) in the show they ever actually show anyone using the meth. It's almost always just shown in large quantities in bags/on trays/etc as a sort of macguffin.

And out of the few times i can think of, one of the main ones was crazy tweakers with a kid. that are almost comical. They're never super graphic about it though. If anything they're much more graphic when they show heroin use. It's generally "oh wait he's holding a pipe and he smoked it NEXT SCENE" kinda stuff.

Someone with a much more photographic and encyclopedic memory than myself may comment, but i've seen a lot more disturbing/graphic drug usage in other shows. It's pretty sidelined in BB. There's a big * and an IMO in there though.

I have, however, not been a drug addict in that way in the past. So maybe my opinion isn't what you're looking for. I just feel like the drug use in this show is greatly exaggerated when people who haven't really seen it talk about or are talked to about it.
posted by emptythought at 3:00 PM on August 30, 2013

I would suggest listening to your gut.

Your gut tells you that this might not be a good thing for you to watch. Your gut says "this has been a problem for me in the past, and I'm sensing some alarm bells again."

So skip it!

The worst thing that will happen is that you'll need to find something else entertaining to watch out of the hundreds of great shows and movies out there.

(Personally, I have no doubt that Breaking Bad is a fantastic show, but I'm just not interested in watching it for similar triggering reasons, albeit not related to drugs.)
posted by Old Man McKay at 3:14 PM on August 30, 2013 [44 favorites]

People Places Things--if you know what this means you know the answer. Congratulations on your 10 years.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:15 PM on August 30, 2013 [19 favorites]

In the earlier episodes one of the characters (Jesse) smokes crystal kind of a lot, and the cinematography lingers on it in a dream-like way that you may find enticing. Beyond that, most usage is portrayed as kind of ugly and pathetic, especially as the seasons move on.

It is a good show and all, but if you think it might not be enjoyable to watch, why bother? Watch The Wire or Deadwood or The Sopranos or something and be all kinds of glad you're off that horrible shit.

Congratulations on kicking that shit to the curb, by the way. Not everybody can do that - good on you.
posted by Pecinpah at 3:17 PM on August 30, 2013 [14 favorites]

I like Breaking Bad but it's not worth it. You aren't missing that much, truly.
posted by grouse at 3:17 PM on August 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't know exactly what would trigger you, but here's my general take: characters say the word "meth" dozens of times per episode. The production of meth is shown and discussed in great detail, and there are often lingering shots of the "perfect" cook: trays and trays of the blue crystal cooked, broken up, and bagged are often the concluding shots of various episodes. I would say these images are fetishized to a certain extent. The (fake) blue meth is gorgeous and the camera loves it. There is a lot of talk about what makes "good" meth - how pure it is, how much care went into its creation, its exact chemical makeup, and so on.

There are many scenes of people using meth, especially in earlier episodes. There are lots of close-up shots of meth being prepared and smoked, reaction shots, etc. I feel like the sounds of people smoking really stuck with me from those scenes: the bubbling, the hissing, the exhaling. It's very vivid. People's eyes rolling back in their heads, shouting about how unbelievably pure the meth is, and so on. I don't know if the use is "ritualized" per se, but the filming does emphasize the details of how precisely the meth is consumed.

It is really hard to overstate how much this show is about meth.

Is meth depicted in a positive way? Absolutely hell no. If I had teenagers I thought might be curious about trying meth, I would sit them down and make them watch all five seasons back to back and it would be a lot more effective than any lecture or after school special. But I don't think that's exactly where you are. There is a lot of fucking meth in this show. If watching people do meth is upsetting or difficult for you, it is not the show for you.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 3:23 PM on August 30, 2013 [31 favorites]

Addressing your question as a pure risk/benefit issue, what is the potential benefit?

1 ) You MIGHT enjoy a TV show

Potential risk

2) You MIGHT see some triggering behavior that would precipitate a relapse.

If you work the math the upside is extremely minimal vs the downside. Even if the odds are 95% or better that you would have no adverse reaction to the show, who gives a rat, it is just a TV show.
posted by jcworth at 3:31 PM on August 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

There's a lot more use than emptythought remembers. Jesse's girlfriends, his dealer friends, a whole house load of tweakers, etc.

I don't do illegal drugs, but I would have to say I know about triggering. 20 years on when I see someone smoke in a movie I want a cigarette.

I would stay the fuck away from this show if I were an addict. It doesn't glorify us in any manner, but it made me think about what it would be like to be on meth. If I had knowledge of that I could see it instilling a desire.

Not worth it.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:38 PM on August 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

It's a good show. But, it's not that good. Really, you aren't missing much and the high stakes aren't worth it.
posted by quince at 3:45 PM on August 30, 2013

I can't think of a show more likely.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:53 PM on August 30, 2013

I was triggered, in one of the first episodes, when someone was shooting up. Watching the blood swirl in the syringe made my stomach roll. If this show was about herion addiction I could not watch it, but since it is about meth and meth didn't exist when I was using, I am not so much bothered by it.

Walter White, on the otherhand, is one evil fuck and I want him to die. And this I find more disturbing than all of the using going on.
posted by cairnoflore at 3:57 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sopranos is much better, and there is no meth.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:09 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

There aren't a lot of depictions of meth use, but there are a lot of scenes that show super high-grade methamphetamine being produced in a very regimented/ritualized way that looks like footage of a candy factory. One of the things I like about the show is the cinematography, and I could definitely see it stimulating the appetite of somebody for whom those crystals once held an appeal beyond the visual.
posted by contraption at 4:12 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your gut tells you that this might not be a good thing for you to watch. Your gut says "this has been a problem for me in the past, and I'm sensing some alarm bells again."

Yeah, if you want to go out you can always find a way to justify it; watching a tv show that includes every single one of your rituals, triggers, cliches, and stereotype in one package and wondering if you can watch it without going out almost seems like a dare, and a bad idea.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:23 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Agreed with the risk/benefit breakdown above.

How about you come back next week and post an AskMe looking for other great tv shows to watch? MeFites watch a ton of tv. We can hook you up.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:26 PM on August 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

I've been re-watching the series recently. Season 2 portrays the meth use the most – then it starts to feel like a D.A.R.E. commercial at some point in the middle, and the writers abandon this angle and get back to Walt/Jesse's internal politics. You see a lot less people actually smoking crystal from the end of Season 2 on.
posted by deathpanels at 6:46 PM on August 30, 2013

wow, after further consideration and others comments I retract my post now.
posted by emptythought at 8:22 PM on August 30, 2013

I think it's one of the best shows of the last 20 years but I sure as hell don't think it's worth risking your sobriety over. Don't do it.
posted by Justinian at 9:32 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

You know what's a good show? Orange is the New Black.
posted by latkes at 9:38 PM on August 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I simply don't have the time to watch all the movies and television out there, but it's helpful for my work to try and keep abreast. I read movie criticism, outlines, and episode guides, and I especially do that for "triggering" material which I know would be very upsetting to watch.

I wonder whether reading the character sketches and storylines would satisfy your curiosity, give you a sense of the overall plot, without fully triggering your addiction. Another way is to find a friend who is a fan and ask them to describe the overall plot to you.
posted by mitschlag at 8:02 AM on August 31, 2013

I cannot effing stand the show because it reminds me very much of people I knew who made bad life decisions and it strikes me as having been created from a place of smug privilege where people like you are an insignificant plot point or even a cheap laugh.

Congratulations on your success.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:59 AM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Um, sorry to all the folks posting that there isn't much meth imagery and most of it is showing degraded people in degrading situations, but that is not so. I have a pretty photographic memory AND I just rewatched most of the show, so.

There are LOTS of scenes of Jesse and his friends getting high and it is shown as fun.

There are LOTS of scenes of Jesse and Jane getting high and it is shown as fun.

There are LOTS of scenes of making meth that are stylized and ritualized to the point of being meth porn.

There are LOTS of scenes of Jesse using other drugs.

In addition, Jesse is able to live a lifestyle completely outside of his means as well as have a girlfriend (or two) that are out of his league because of his meth selling/usage.

And (spoiler) there are also those scenes of Jesse and his friends using an NA meeting to sell meth to people.

If you feel those things might trigger you, then you should avoid.
posted by mrfuga0 at 9:30 AM on August 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

"Sopranos is much better, and there is no meth."

Christopher and Brendan do meth in the first (?) season of Sopranos.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:44 AM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

To find out how much drug use is shown in just about any show, check the parent's guides on IMDB.

Breaking Bad doesn't sound like it's for you, but you can check out other shows on the parents guide.
posted by yohko at 8:40 PM on August 31, 2013

The later seasons of BB don't depict much meth use, but no way you'll get past seasons 1 and 2 without some kind of triggering.

Soooooo much great tv drama out there, BB is just another fish in the sea. Mad Men. The Wire. House of Cards. The Sopranos. Six Feet Under. Deadwood. Dexter. Orange is the New Black. Boardwalk Empire.

And none of them are about meth!
posted by Ndwright at 9:17 PM on September 7, 2013

The best fucking show in the world isn't worth the risk.

Listen to your gut!
posted by Tarumba at 2:33 PM on September 8, 2013

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