Fictional characters are sometimes depicted dealing with issues of drug use and addiction. How accurate are their experiences? Do they reflect real-life experiences with addiction?
[Spoiler alert! In this post, we reveal some plot lines in the CW TV show The 100.]
In CW's science fiction show The 100, the character named Lincoln (played by Ricky Whittle) is a member of the Grounders, a group of humans who have survived on the radioactive surface of Earth for 97 years following nuclear devastation. The Grounders value strength of mind and body above all else; nothing will prevent them from protecting their people and their land. Lincoln is a good example of the group’s qualities: He has survived combat, torture, and war.
When Lincoln is captured by the Mountain Men, they repeatedly give him “the red drug” to transform him into a Reaper—a cannibal who serves the Mountain Men in exchange for getting more of the drug. At first glance, this fictional situation may seem pretty wild. But some of the points about drug addiction are true: We know that if someone uses a drug over and over again, it can cause changes in their brain function and make them want to keep taking the drug.
In order to receive more of the red drug, Lincoln must commit repulsive acts. This also mirrors what we see in real life sometimes. Criminal acts fueled by drug use are not uncommon; they include offenses related to obtaining drugs such as stealing, and abusive and violent behaviors. A 2004 survey by the U.S. Department of Justice found that 1 in 4 violent offenders in state prisons committed their offenses under the influence of drugs. Scary, huh?
As we follow Lincoln on his journey, we see him gradually overcoming his addiction to the red drug with the help of people who care for him. This also matches real life. Family and friends can really help someone with drug problems by encouraging them to seek out and continue treatment. If a family member or a significant other is involved in a person’s treatment, it can even strengthen the benefits of treatment and help those benefits to last.
When the mission takes Lincoln back to the mountain with the Reapers and the Mountain Men, he resists returning, and the show makes us think he fears that he’ll relapse (start using the red drug again). Rightly so, because returning to the environment where he used the red drug will present “triggers” for Lincoln’s addiction. Triggers—such as people, situations, even smells—remind someone of using drugs and can create intense drug cravings. Sometimes the person doesn’t even realize that they’re being “triggered.”
This is why there’s a lot of discussion and debate around the question: Is a person ever fully recovered from addiction? Some are able to stay away from drugs for the rest of their lives (we hope the writers give Lincoln that kind of happy ending). However, some people can go for many years without using drugs, and then suddenly they relapse and begin using again. This happens when we see Lincoln relapse, risking the loss of his friend Bellamy’s life and the failure of their mission.
After Lincoln’s relapse, he encounters his love, Octavia. When he tells her he feels he can’t overcome his addiction, she says, “Grounders don’t give up. We fight.”
We’ll have to tune in to Season 3 to see how Lincoln combats his addiction. Meanwhile, people struggling with addiction in the real world can battle their addiction by getting the right treatment, maintaining permanent lifestyle and social changes to avoid drug use, relying on a strong support system of family and friends, and avoiding triggers as carefully as possible.
Lincoln didn’t have the choice in starting to take drugs. But most of us do have that choice—at least in the beginning stages of drug use. One thing is for sure: if you never use drugs, you won’t get addicted. Since there is no way to know who will become addicted, do you really want to take the chance?
If you think you or someone you know has a problem with drugs, please see NIDA’s treatment guides for how to get help.
Does Lincoln’s struggle with addiction seem realistic to you? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.