Substance Use Disorders


Bad Timing
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1980    Rating:  R
Actors:  Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorder, Treatment
This modern film-noir type movie has been hated by some – e.g., the original distribution company  removed its logo and called it “a sick movie made by sick people for sick people.”  Well, I didn’t think it was THAT bad – I’ve certainly seen worse, but I’m not inclined to watch it again.  The film is told through a series of flashbacks interspersed with current time, making it a bit hard to follow.  By the end, though, you have a sense of where the psychopathologies lie.  In addition to the personality disorder issues, what about the psychiatrist’s blatant disregard for confidentiality and the inappropriate use of testing?  If he is a “research psychoanalyst” in Vienna, does that change the ethics requirement, even if he most likely was trained in the United States? And, yes, the actor is Art Garfunkel of Simon & Garfunkel fame.

Beautiful People
Genre:  Drama/Comedy    Year:  1999    Rating:  R
Actors:  Thomas Goodridge, Frank Pruti, Tony Peters
Topics:  Psychopathology, Social, Stress and Coping, Family Dynamics
A black comedy from Britain. Much like a lighter version of “Crash.” The intertwining of lives and various conflicts allow for discussion of biases and “us” versus “them” mentalities. Also includes reference to “Bosnian syndrome.”

Genre:  Drama    Year:  1988    Rating:  R
Actors:  Forest Whitaker, Diane Venora, Michael Zelniker
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, Stress and Coping
Story of jazz great Charlie Parker, with drug use and compulsive eating.

Boost, The
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1988    Rating:  R
Actors:  James Woods, Sean Young, John Kapelos
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Sean Young and James Woods get a “boost” from cocaine addiction, at what cost?

Clean and Sober
Genre:   Drama     Year:  1988      Rating:  R
Actors:  Michael Keaton, Kathy Baker, Morgan Freeman
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Treatment
Michael Keaton struggles with alcoholism and attends rehab.

Genre:  Comedy      Year:  1950      Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Dow
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress. Classic comedy with Jimmy Stewart hallucinating (?) a six-foot rabbit named Harvey. Consider the portrayal of psychiatry and the mental asylum and the apparent ease with which one seemed to be able to commit a person. Also, one might think Harvey was a result of too much alcohol, but do we actually see Jimmy Stewart ever drink? Hmmm. My favorite lines are Elwood’s quoting his mother: “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh-so-smart or oh-so-pleasant,” and his conclusion, “Well, for years I was smart; I recommend pleasant.” Is it a personality disorder to be too nice, too polite? Ah, if we all were so afflicted! Parallels with Peter Sellers in “Being There” and Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump?”

Life as a House
Genre:  Drama     Year:  2001    Rating:  R
Actors:  Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Stress and Coping, Marital/Family Dynamics
Kevin Klein portrays a man diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 4 months to live. He attempts to rebuild his relationship with his drug-using, life-hating teenage son, while they rebuild a ramshackle house that was his lifelong goal.


Lost Weekend, The
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1945      Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry
Topics:  Drugs/Alcohol, Family Dysfunction
Classic story of alcoholic struggling with self-esteem issues and inability to maintain personal relationships, including his supportive brother. Great scenes demonstrating ingenuity of alcoholics in hiding their liquor.

My Left Foot 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1989     Rating:  R
Actors:  Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison Whelan
Topics:  Neuropsychology/Medical Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Mood Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
Academy Award winner for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Great film about childhood misdiagnosis of cerebral palsy as mental retardation and the difficulties adjusting to an adult life with disabilities.

‘Night Mother
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1986     Rating:  R
Actors:  Sissy Spacek, Anne Bancroft
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Substance Use Disorders
Plenty of family dysfunction here – declaration of suicidal intention by the daughter whose life consists of a failed marriage, a drug-addicted son, and agoraphobia. Her mother attempts to convince her that life is worth living. From a Pulitzer Prize winning play.

Permanent Midnight
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1998     Rating:  R
Actors:  Ben Stiller, Maria Bello, Jay Paulson
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Autobiographical story of former Hollywood screenwriter, Jerry Stahl, and his struggles with drug addiction. Hard to go wrong with Ben Stiller as the lead and, of course, the omnipresent Owen Wilson has a small role.

Requiem for a Dream
Genre:  Drama     Year:  2000     Rating:  R
Actors:  Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics 
Another Darren Aronofsky film that pushes the boundaries. Strong portrayals of drug addiction (both street drugs and prescription drugs) and its costs. Roger Ebert deems it a “travelogue of hell” – for those who have not experienced the torment of drug addiction, here’s a guided tour. Consider the different types of addiction and motivations for drug use. Unique film techniques enhance this gripping movie.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1991     Rating:  R
Actors:  Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jason Patric, Sam Elliott
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders 
Undercover cops who are sucked into drug use. Illustrates the danger of believing that one can simply and easily “quit” using addictive drugs. Gave us the haunting Eric Clapton song, “Tears in Heaven.” 

Genre:  Drama     Year:  2007     Rating:  R
Actors:  Maggie Gyllenhaal, Brad William Henke, Sam Bottoms
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Sherry is released from prison to a halfway house, after doing time for drugs/theft. Her young daughter has been cared for by her brother and his wife. Sherry struggles with her re-entry into society and into her child’s life, expecting the “quick fix” she could get from drug use. Consider family dynamics, personality issues.

When a Man Loves a Woman
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1994     Rating:  R
Actors:  Andy Garcia, Meg Ryan, Ellen Burstyn
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dysfunction, Treatment 
Story of alcoholic wife and mother, her treatment, and her relationship with her husband.