See which 10 television characters would likely be diagnosed with a serious substance use disorder if they really walked among us.
Tyrion Lannister, “Game of Thrones”
Tyrion swills and guzzles his way through the ups and downs of The Seven Kingdoms. Granted, he hasn’t had the easiest time of it. His mother died giving birth to him, his sister and father resent him for it, and with nicknames like “the imp” and “the halfman,” which unapologetically mock his dwarfism, we can see why he may turn to the bottle. Tyrion is a self-medicator. He hasn’t learned how to cope with his hardships so he numbs with alcohol. “It’s not easy being drunk all the time. If it were easy, everyone would do it,” he says. Actually, many of his comrades seem up to the challenge.
Jesse Pinkman, “Breaking Bad”
Oh, Jesse. We’re all rooting for you, but your squirm-worthy string of bad decisions makes it so difficult sometimes. Jesse has bouts of sobriety, but when times get tough he likes to reach for the meth pipe. Not to mention his dangerous dance with heroin, compliments of the troubled Jane Margolis. We won’t even talk about her heartbreaking fate. Jesse (and Jane) should not pass go, should not collect $200 and head straight to drug rehab.
Jimmy McNulty, “The Wire”
His drinking habits are so infamous they’ve even made their way into pop culture. Per the Urban Dictionary: “McNulty — A pint of Jameson whiskey. In reference to Det. Jimmy McNulty from The Wire, who is known to carry and drink a pint of Jameson wherever he goes.” Jimmy is a functioning alcoholic. He somehow manages to hold down a job, but that’s about the only thing he hasn’t messed up. A functioning alcoholic is still an alcoholic, and this one needs alcohol rehab to get clean. Though the end of the series finds Jimmy sober again, without addiction treatment, he’s bound to fall into the same patterns.
Jackie Peyton, “Nurse Jackie”
She’s so loveable and charming. That’s why it makes it particularly heartbreaking to watch her struggle with drug abuse and failed attempts to get sober. Nurse Jackie is the poster child for prescription drug addiction. Percocet, Xanax, Vicodin — pretty much whatever’s handy at the time is her drug of choice. She lies, cheats, steals and breaks just about every rule in the Nursing Code of Ethics. Jackie is a chronic relapser and needs a serious, long-term stint in a comprehensive drug rehab to reverse her fate.
Frank Gallagher, “Shameless”
Blackouts, arrests, tumultuous relationships, chronic unemployment, health problems — Frank has all the traits of a classic alcoholic. He continues his downward, booze-infused spiral despite the negative consequences — one of the No. 1 signs of addiction. Fans have even created a Shameless Drinking Game where people drink every time “Frank does something to completely and utterly screw over the family.” And P.S. readers, if you’re playing that drinking game, you might want to take a look at your alcohol consumption, too.
Norm Peterson, “Cheers”
The entire bar greets him by name every time he walks through the door, and he has his own designated barstool. Enough said.
Lucille Bluth, “Arrested Development”
The matriarch of the colorful Bluth crew, she has a martini in her hand at all times. Did her eccentric family drive her to drink or did her drinking help propel their dysfunction? Our hunch is the latter. At her first intervention, the family got drunk and it turned into a party. Their second attempt to get Lucille into alcohol rehab was more successful, but ended in a drinking game — that she won. It’s time to put down that martini and get to alcohol detox and a successful alcohol abuse program.
Dr. Gregory House, “House”
He’s a doctor. He should know better, right? Not always. Unfortunately the incorrigible Dr. House’s painkiller addiction is not the exception to the rule. Researchers estimate that 10% to 15% of all healthcare professionals misuse drugs or alcohol during their careers. Through six seasons we watch House abuse Vicodin, LSD, oxycodone and methadone. His stretch in Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital curbs his addiction for a while, but he’s back on drugs the next time life throws him a curveball. House needs to thoroughly address the underlying issues that propel his drug use and learn healthier coping skills.
Don Draper, “Mad Men”
What kind of substance abuse list would this be without the dreamy but damaged ad exec, Mr. Draper? He flawlessly fit into the cocktail culture of the 1960s corporate powerhouses. But social drinking is sometimes a slippery slope into full-blown substance abuse, and my friend, he has slid. Liquid lunches quickly progressed into late-night bar boozing, drug experimentation and alcohol-powered situations like vomiting at a funeral, spending the night in the slammer, delirium tremens and even punching a minister while on the sauce. Don has lost his job and his loved ones. His life is unmanageable. He needs alcohol rehab and some intensive therapy to heal from those childhood trauma wounds that are likely fueling his destructive behaviors.
Penny Hofstadter, “The Big Bang Theory”
She’s rarely seen without wine in hand. Blacking out, inebriated promiscuity, passing out while her friends play Twister around her, not to mention that one time she woke up in bed with Raj – these are just some of Penny’s drunken antics. Behind that effervescent exterior is a woman struggling with substance use issues. She self-medicates with alcohol when she’s sad and celebrates with it when she’s happy. Her friends, who aren’t exactly the poster children for sobriety, have even expressed concerns about her drinking. Though she seems to have tamed her ways in recent seasons, we can’t help but wonder if the binge drinking will start up again with just the right trigger.
Can You Relate?
Watching the trials and tribulations of our TV friends on the little screen is one thing. Recognizing a lot of ourselves or a loved one in those characters’ alcohol or drug use is quite another thing. If dramatic depictions of personalities like Penny, Don and Jimmy hit a little too close to home, it may be time to see if fiction is mirroring reality.