Drugs such as methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, cannabis, opiates and some prescription drugs are known to cause a momentary ‘high’, an intense, satisfying and pleasurable sensation. These sensations are what causes a lot of people to get addicted to drugs, “changing one’s life from black and white to technicolour”. However, these sensations are short lived and their aftereffects can last for a long time and can be very serious. 

The film, Beautiful Boy, directed by Felix Van Groeningen, is centered around addiction and makes a compelling effort to depict how the disease process can affect an individual which results in behaviour that damages strong relationships. Based on a true story, this sensitive and artistic movie talks about one family’s struggle with drugs. It is based on two sets of memoirs: Beautiful Boy written by author and journalist David Sheff, his distressing and painful account of him trying to help his son Nic; and Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines written by Nic Sheff himself, about his experiences. 

Nic Sheff, played by Timothee Chalamet, is a teenager hooked on crystal meth and spirals away from his supportive family and towards his dependency on drugs and alcohol. His father, David Sheff, played by Steve Carell, who is a journalist, makes an honest and sincere attempt to understand his son’s struggle, his desire to learn about his son’s addiction through accurate, journalistic research. At the same time, Nic is haunted by the shame of being dependent on drugs while looking for another fix, forcing him into a cycle of recovery and relapse. 

Drug addiction is an issue that has destroyed many lives. But the tone of the film is precious, neither the son or the father are the ideal victims. Focused on the duo’s strained yet intimate and firm relationship, this film depicts the journey of a father’s struggle to help his son as well as the son’s struggle with addiction. In one of the scenes, David is seen sharing a joint of marijuana after Nic’s high school graduation. The push to understand his son’s addiction issues and his behaviour, leads the father to discovering his son’s hidden notes, consulting experts and even going as far as conducting personal experiments with meth. Later in the film, David, to better understand his son’s addiction, snorts some meth and listens to some jazz music. The negative stigmatization of addiction is omnipresent and is marked by the loss of self-control and vulnerability. 

The main emotions which are portrayed in this film are grief, guilt, anxiety and “psychological terror”. Nic is seen exploiting his father’s love and trust by lying and using emotional manipulation. David, on the other hand, is seen going from denial to careful optimism to vexation, due to his son’s behaviour. His wife, Karen, played by Maura Tierney, who is Nic’s stepmother, is also seen trying to be as supportive as possible and Nic’s mother, Vicki, played by Amy Ryan, who resides in Los Angeles, tries to do whatever she can to help her son through his addiction issue. David and Vicki are seen constantly quarreling about what they need to do and who is to be blamed for their son’s behaviour. David says ‘nothing we have done has helped him.. I have failed him’, which pierces through the main incongruity or incompatibility of the familial experience, leaving him with the feeling of powerlessness, even though he is trying his best to understand and help his son. 

Van Groeningen puts forth cautiously and exquisitely a non-judgemental insight into what it looks like to have a meth addiction and tries to provide an authentic family scenario. He calls to attention the devastating effects Nic’s addiction has on his immediate family, including his half-siblings who adore and idolize him, rather than the causes of the addiction. So, as Nic is chasing after his next high, his family is trying to chase a version of him that he was before his addiction. They have trouble and are struggling to realize that simply loving a person might not be enough to save their life. 

Effects Of Drugs:

Individuals who are emotionally suffering are the ones who usually use drugs to escape from reality, their situation, which ultimately leads to drug abuse or addiction. This is one of the major problems faced all over the world and it is one of the leading causes of deaths. The adverse effects of the drugs can be seen in an individual, both physically, or health, and behaviorally. The physical or health effects that are evident on the nervous system, the brain, in a person abusing drugs. The brain decreases the natural production of dopamine to compensate for the abnormal surges received externally, which leads the individual to lose interest in the activities they once enjoyed. This in turn causes the person to use drugs in higher quantities. Production of glutamate is also slowed down resulting in memory lapses and impaired learning. 

The behavioural problems that are caused by drug abuse are more prevalent than physical or health issues. People may experience frequent mood swings, have a short temper, while other times may seem anxious or depressed. If they are going to school or work, drug addiction might affect their performance and might lead them into skipping out of school or work. 

What can we do to help our loved ones?

Drug addiction issues are serious and can eat away at an individual’s health, behaviour and family. However, these issues can still be faced and solved with the help of proper support from family and friends, and with the professional help. But the sad thing is that instead of seeking help for their loved one going through addiction, family members try to hide or conceal it and try to deal or solve it on their own, until they realize that they news professional help, that they can not deal with it on their own. And by the time they realize it, too much damage is already done.

If you know someone, a child or a friend or a loved one, who might be abusing drugs, the most important thing to do is sit down and try to hold an honest and non-judgemental conversation with them. Talk to them about what is concerning you, be specific about it. Tell them how the changes in their behaviour or appearance worries you. It is imperative to stay calm and connect with the person. By connecting with them it will show that you as a loved one care about them. 

In order to truly help, you may need to know the short-term and the long-term addictions of drug usage, just the way David Sheff tries to find out to help his son. It is paramount to be aware of the consequences and the effects of drugs. However, no matter how much you, as a loved one, do for the person going through addiction, it is up to them to put a permanent stop to it. Even though drug addiction is a brain disease, it is up to them if they want to get rid of the addiction or not, whether they want to get out of the situation or not. 

Treatments are available out there if one can go through to help themselves, if they want to take control back over their life again. Along with addiction medication and behaviour therapy one may be able to gain control back. At Pause for Perspective, we have trained therapists who can help you get through this issue. Our ideology is that the person or the individual is not the issue but rather the system we live in. We believe that mental health counselling is intersectional hence we conduct psychological evaluations as well as interventions for people.

Article by Insha Fatima.