Addiction, stigma and movies


G. S. Cape, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand e-mail:


Objective:  To identify common character stereotypes of alcohol and other drug users as portrayed in motion pictures.

Method:  A selective review of a number of movies prominently portraying alcohol and other drug use and misuse.

Results:  The great majority of popular films portray alcohol and drug use whether as a routinized background, routinized foreground or exceptional foreground. Four main stereotypes of alcohol and other drug users appear to be prevalent – the tragic hero, the demonized user, the rebellious free spirit and the comedic user. A number of movies are selected which portray alcohol and other drug use as a prominent theme.

Conclusion:  Movies, as a medium for mass communication, have a powerful influence on the public and perpetuate popular mythologies regarding alcohol and other drug use.