Why are reality shows about substance abuse or process addictions so popular? Is it voyeurism, education or a little of both?
Are TV viewers becoming addicted to shows about addiction? If you look at the growing range of programs on the schedule, you’d think so.
The latest additions include VH1’s Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew, set to premiere Nov. 1, 2009, and DJ AM’s last effort before his untimely death, Gone Too Far, to begin airing on MTV in October. Over on A&E, they’re giving the music channels a run for their money with their own addiction-themed shows including Hoarders, Obsessed and Intervention. Meanwhile, Dr. Drew is building a reality TV dynasty with several other hit addiction reality shows on VH1 including Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, Celebrity Rehab Reunion and Sober House.
Addiction as Entertainment
While only two of the five shows mentioned above actually deal with chemical addiction, all of the disorders — from hoarding to obsessive-compulsive disorder to sex addiction — wreak havoc on the mental and physical health of those afflicted while destroying marriages, families, careers and finances. And as instances of addiction and mental health disorders continue to rise, straightforward information about these issues is important. While the message boards of these shows confirm that there is a voyeuristic quality to this type of programming (some viewers admit they watch to feel better about their own lives), they are also educational. Especially for sufferers of misunderstood disorders like OCD and hoarding, shows like these have the opportunity to foster understanding and compassion. They also let those who struggle with the same issues not feel so alone in their isolating behavior.
There’s nothing wrong with entertainment, and education is a noble goal, but the real benefit needs to be getting help for those in need. In most cases, that is best done in a residential program under the care of addiction professionals. If you or a family member is struggling with an addiction, call La Paloma at our toll-free number, 877-345-1887. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day.