Free «The Vision of Adverse Effects of Substance Abuse on the Big Screen» Essay Sample
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The modern world provides individuals with opportunities to exercise freedom of expression and experiences. As a result, people may follow destructive tendencies that are considered to be common medical concerns. In this context, substance abuse is viewed as a serious condition that affects a person emotionally and physically. Various adverse effects draw attention of the public. Mass media is an advance way to convey ideas related to trauma and substance abuse. Thus, the paper focuses on the film Leaving Las Vegas (1995) in order to identify a traumatic experience and describe its influence on an individual. It is argued that alcohol drinking leads to emotional impairments that destroy social and personal contacts and deprive an individual of an ability to function as a productive member of society. Drunks have a low level of resilience and undermine efforts of others to help them. Additionally, alcohol has negative effects on emotion regulation that is related to certain chemical processes in the human brain. The movie is a vivid example of a case when alcohol abuse destroys a person and results in lethal outcomes.
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The plot of the movie is based on interactions of two main characters, Ben and Sera, who create a picture of emotionally impaired people with deep traumatic experiences. An emphasis is placed on substance abuse that is depicted in the experience of Ben, a former writer who lost a family and social status. In addition to a complicated financial situation and other problems, Ben decides to resort to drinking in pursuit of death; however, he continues to experience life pleasures with Sera. The main characters complement each other by adding a romantic background to the illustration of alcoholism and its effects on an individual and his surroundings. It should be noted that Ben’s story is featured with Sera, a prostitute, who constrains an image of a substance abuser by a personal perspective and attitude. Thus, Sera expresses a social position regarding alcohol drinking in terms of emotional and interpersonal effects.
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Substance abuse is perceived based on a character’s journey. His journey is analyzed in relation to the nature of alcohol drinking and its ultimate consequences. It is worth mentioning that the implications of the ethanol that is a basic component of alcohol and its consumption have occupied an important place in cinematography and have been depicted many times. However, the film Leaving Las Vegas is distinguished from other motion pictures because it vividly conveys an idea of drinking being a means of committing suicide for the chief character. In this context, suicide as a result of intoxication is an important aspect of alcoholism that is depicted in the film. The link between drinking and suicide behavior is discussed in the works of Coughlin and Sher (2013), for example. Here, such notions as depression, impact of relationships, and aspects related to the functioning of human brain in response to alcohol consumption are analyzed (for instance, by Levitt and Leonard (2015)). These elements form a maladaptive pattern of alcohol dependence that finds its particularization in distress and significant impairment (Sher, 2006). A special attention is placed on the idea of alcohol motivation as a contributing factor to the traumatic experience. It should be noted that substance abuse is understood as an illustration of the development of traumatic experiences.
Nature of the Traumatic Experience
The film Leaving Las Vegas explores a theme of substance abuse as a main illustration of a complicated system of experiences that are viewed as traumatic elements and contribute to the development of the main character. However, the nature of the traumatic experience that has resulted in alcohol consumption is never indicated directly. The film depicts drinking as an independent experience and drinking motivation is implied only in the form of memories of men that lost important social connections. Here, various aspects may be considered in an effort to establish the exact reason for alcoholism. These aspects should be evaluated in terms of personal life and other social components that are addressed in the movie.
Personal life and social connections may be regarded to as key components that establish the nature of traumatic experience. Generally, a certain situation compels a person to start abusing substances. Since the character mentions his family relationships, the accent is placed on marriage problems. However, Ben shares his vision of the drinking problem by saying that “I don’t know if I started drinking ‘cause my wife left me or my wife left me ‘cause I started drinking...” (Cazès, Stewart, & Figgis, 1995). No other traumatic experiences are discussed in the film. Briere and Scott (2014) develop this idea and explain that “those who use drugs or alcohol dissociate, avoid discussing what has happened to them” (p. 103). Thus, it may be assumed that stressful situations and lack of support might have become the determining factors that made the character get involved in alcohol drinking. According to an alcohol motivation theory, described by Levitt and Leonard (2015), drinking is one of the ways to deal with difficulties in relationships. However, relationship-specific substance abuse, especially during the early years of marriage, leads to “the associations between insecure attachment styles” and generates such negative feelings as anxiety (Levitt & Leonard, 2015, p. 1). In this context, Ben may be characterized as a man who suffers from anxiety and does not know how to express his intense emotions. Thus, relationship difficulties, frustration, and marriage-associated stress might be some of the traumatic experiences that led to alcohol dependency of the main character.
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Another aspect to consider in establishing the source of trauma is the role of self-esteem. While alcohol can elicit various problems in marriage, a nature of traumatic experience may be hidden in self-esteem. It may be presumed that Ben lacks self-respect and confidence. Perhaps, the feeling of being socially dismissed resulted in drinking. Thus, drinking-to-cope may be the main action that increased Ben’s traumatic experiences. In combination with stress, Ben might have been “low in relationship-contingent self-esteem” (Levitt & Leonard, 2015, p. 2). The theory is supported by the words of the main character who says that he would engage with Sera, his recent acquaintance, “because then I would have a purpose… that would prove that I’m worth something” (Cazès, et al., 1995). Even though Ben is not referred to as a failed writer, his inability to achieve success is critical for the story.
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Thus, the exact nature of traumatic experience cannot be identified. According to Coughlin and Sher (2013), a need for psychosocial support, social disadvantages, psychosocial stress, and disrupted relationships in addition to the absence of a professional help can be some of the sources of drinking problems. Here, the traumatic experience is strain and impacts various spheres of life on different levels. It may be concluded that a whole combination of factors has resulted in substance abuse by the main character. In this case, drinking is not only a consequence of a certain traumatic experience but a means of expressing and coping with it. This approach to the traumatic experience may also be discussed in relation to the ecological model of the traumatic experience.
Analysis of Substance Abuse via Ecological Model
The notion of being a drunk may be described with the use of the ecological model that incorporates such important features as social, cultural, intrapersonal, and interpersonal aspects. An approach to the traumatic experience as a combination of factors helps to understand the role of environment and inner motives in alcohol abuse using the example of the movie. Additionally, suicide is considered to be an important factor and a part of trauma that was experienced by the main character. It should be emphasized that instead of trying to resolve the issue, the character decides to end his story and ravish in the alcohol addiction. Here, the inner motives are represented by the lack of resilience.
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Ben accepted alcohol as a part of his being. He is not depicted as an individual who attempts to control his cravings. As a matter of fact, Ben is aware of an ugly picture that is created by his alcohol abuse, but he perceives it as a way to express his desires and character. This idea is supported by the evidence from the movie when Ben explains that “you haven’t seen the worst of it. I knock things over... throw up all the time” (Cazès, et al., 1995). Thus, in terms of intrapersonal background, the main character is not contained with his present state and prefers to commit suicide. It can be assumed that drinking is his choice of life as well as death. This connection with an accent on a lethal outcome is addressed in the dialogue between Ben and Sera: “Is drinking a way of killing yourself? Or, is killing myself a way of drinking?” (Cazès, et al., 1995). Additionally, interpersonal distress aggravates the problem (Levitt & Leonard, 2015). Thus, interpersonal aspects help to establish the depth of Ben’s traumatic experience.
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Moreover, the fact that Ben is unemployed increases his traumatic experience. Coughlin and Sher (2013) describe suicide as a physical illness and consider it in the context of demographic risk factors that include occupancy. An individual with no support and with suicidal thoughts is illustrated in the film in an episode when the character explains that he came to Las Vegas to drink himself to death (Cazès, et al., 1995). It should be noted that the Western world understands suicide as an illustration of uncontrolled emotional distress that finds its physical manifestation. Therefore, suicide is another aspect that has cultural and social implications dramatizing the character even more and increasing his traumatic experiences.
Neurobiological and Social Aspects of Alcohol Abuse
The effects of traumatic experiences may be discussed in terms of effect regulation, interpersonal relationships, as well as brain chemistry with an emphasis on neuropsychology. The main character of the movie is influenced by various factors on emotional and physical levels that “encompass a host of deficits that impair adaptive, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning” (Brown, Cooney-Koss, Harr, Neal, Haanen, 2017, p. 1). In this case, the main character suffers from the effects produced by alcohol consumption that may be seen in patients with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Ben finds it difficult to control his impulses (for example, he constantly drinks, harasses women, etc.), has problems with empathizing (hurts Sera’s feelings), refuses to accept responsibilities (runs away from problems to Las Vegas), and has poor emotional control (Brown et al., 2017). Furthermore, such impaired behavioral regulation is related to weak emotional control.
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The central character of the story suffers from emotional impulses and struggles with regulation. Ben acknowledges this fact by saying that “these past few days I’ve been very controlled… But, that won’t last forever” (Cazès, et al., 1995). Substance use disorder has an impact on impairments in emotional regulation that may also be discussed in relation to the deactivating impact (Wilcox, Pommy, & Adinoff, 2016). According to the existing studies on alcohol abuse, individuals are characterized by “diminished regulatory activity” and decreased activities in emotion-generating regions of the brain (Wilcox, et al., 2016). These effects are based on chemical processes in human brain.
Neuropsychologists study the connections between the brain activity and people’s behavior. Within this framework, such chemicals as serotonin and dopamine play a significant role in modulating behavior patterns. Sher (2006) stresses the fact that alcohol drinkers have lower levels of serotonin. Such a state increases impulsivity and aggression that, in fact, characterizes conduct of the main character. Additionally, low levels of dopamine are involved in the pathophysiology of suicidal behavior that is followed by Ben (Sher, 2006, p. 702). Thus, lack of means to control emotional processes is the major effect of alcohol abuse in the movie and in real life.
Alcohol abuse may also be viewed within the social and cultural contexts. Ben has no friends or relatives, because his drinking habits make it impossible to maintain close relationships. Additionally, deactivation as an impact of drinking may be viewed as a negative consequence that leads to antisocial patterns of behavior. Thus, in an episode in a bar at the beginning of the film, Ben, being unable to construct a proper dialogue with a lady, uses direct physical contact to initiate a connection. A bartender prevents Ben from further harassing a woman. The scene is valuable because it illustrates that the main character is incapable of building healthy social connections. His relationships with Sera are also complicated and are destroyed in the end by substance intoxication.
The film Leaving Las Vegas is a vivid example of substance abuse. Alcohol drinking is related to various traumatic experiences such as stress, relationship problems, low self-esteem, general frustration, and others. The exact nature of traumatic experience is not established in the movie. Therefore, drinking is a serious matter that serves as a means to express and cope with different traumatic experiences. Additionally, alcohol abuse aggravates a person’s condition. This consequence is also discussed in relation to the ecological model of the traumatic experience. The picture conveys a message according to which alcohol has negative effects on an individual by destroying personal relationships, modifying behavior, and making a person emotional and physically impaired. The main character demonstrates how alcohol abuse shapes antisocial patterns of behavior, diminishes the need to cope with the condition, and leads to lethal outcomes.