Addiction and the Film Industry | Raindance Film School

There’s no denying that many celebrities have famously dealt with addiction. But it’s an issue that usually extends beyond the big screen — and beyond just actors — as movies and television shows tend to normalise this issue. This environment can lead to a dangerous lifestyle, and the stress of a career in film can sometimes lead to substance abuse. 

If you’re working in the film industry and struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. Here’s a look at how to avoid addiction in the film industry.

Why Addiction Affects the Entertainment World

Try to think back to the last movie you watched. Do you remember any drugs or alcohol? It’s far more common for viewers to witness substance abuse on screen than not. There’s a chance you’ll see casual drinking and smoking most often — but you don’t have to look hard to find illicit drug use depiction, either.

This occurrence hits closer to home for filmmakers than people might assume. Granted, you won’t watch actors use real substances in movies or television — but behind the scenes, the stress of filmmaking, producing and directing leads to increased instances of substance abuse in film professionals.

Pressures that come with long workdays can prompt filmmakers to abuse substances. Both mental and physical demands contribute to high addiction levels. Those on set need to know how to avoid addiction in the film industry. 

Remember that it shouldn’t feel shameful. If you’ve come to rely on a substance to keep up with your career, know that you have other choices — both for your personal health and your professional success. Here are a few preventive measures you can take as a film professional.

1. Be Open About Struggles

If you feel tempted to explore certain substances — especially because of any stress you might feel at work — you should discuss your struggles. It’s beneficial to be open so you’re not alone in your situation. Try not to underestimate your support system, which can offer you lots of guidance.

Have you already fallen into substance abuse? If so, you might be worried about people’s reactions. This might seem impossible to overcome. However, you should try to alert your supervisor — especially when a significant drug or alcohol issue exists on set. Those who seek treatment in America can’t be terminated or let go per the Americans With Disabilities Act, and in the UK, employment protection law requires employers to treat addiction as an illness — not a cause for dismissal. If you identify the problem and seek treatment rather than allowing it to affect your performance long-term in silence, your employer will understand.

Honesty will always be the best policy. Consider that you can help other people when you ask for assistance yourself. There’s never anything wrong with pointing out a harmful work environment. This action could save lives, including your own.

2. Learn to Cope Properly

It’s no secret that stress can be a significant factor in substance abuse. If you get home from work feeling anxious and overwhelmed, you might turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Therefore, you need to discover better solutions. 

Make sure you draw a clear line of division between work life and personal life — when you head home for the day, stop thinking about work and focus only on important personal matters like yourself, your family and your individual interests. 

Remember to find ways to relax in your personal life that don’t include substance indulgence — not only will this keep you from falling into addictive patterns, but it will refresh and relax you while offering the balance you need to show up more dedicated to your career the next day. Some alternative stress relief activities could include:

  • Hitting the gym
  • Seeking medical treatment for anxiety or depression
  • Practicing self-care
  • Spending time outside
  • Enjoying a healthy level of escape by reading, finding a favorite show, or playing a video game
  • Hand-cooking a meal with friends or family
  • Calling or video-calling a loved one
  • Writing, blogging, journaling or pursuing an artistic hobby
  • Making sure you get enough sleep

These healthy habits can alleviate the temptation to rely on substances as stress relief or coping mechanisms. Remember that change takes time, and it’s also not always something you can deal with on your own. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help through a therapist or rehabilitation program.

3. Don’t Succumb to Peer Pressure

This tip will be easier said than done — but peer pressure doesn’t only exist in your teen years with schoolmates. It’s something that adults experience personally and professionally, so you still need to be prepared to hold your ground. There might be times when your co-workers or friends push you to indulge in a substance socially. It’s perfectly within your rights to say no and stick to that.

It can be tough to navigate how widely society accepts substance use. When was the last time you went to a wedding and weren’t offered any champagne? If you haven’t experienced addiction before, you might have one or two glasses, but you should know your limits. Those with addictive personalities should stay away from the bar entirely.

Don’t take substances because you want to fit in with others. Anyone who pushes alcohol and drugs on you shouldn’t be considered your friend, and certainly should not be in a power position at work. Find a new crowd to ensure you don’t get into any dangerous antics. It’s always better to sever ties with people who don’t respect your decision to stay sober,

Substance Abuse in Film Professionals Can Be Avoided

Multiple factors and circumstances contribute to substance abuse in the film industry. It’s an issue not many people are aware of — but it’s not something that has to be part of your professional or personal experience. You might need to take extra steps to protect yourself from stigmas that might exist on set or elsewhere, but leading a healthier lifestyle personally will help you thrive more professionally.

Remember to find healthy alternative stress relief activities, avoid substance indulgence either in stressful professional or social situations, and draw the line between work and home to create a healthy balance. And don’t ever be afraid to seek help if that’s what you need. By managing your mental and physical health when it comes to substance use, you can make sure your filmmaking career is headed in the right direction, as well. 



Ginger Abbot is a freelance writer and graduate student with a passion for helping others find their career paths. Read more of her work on Classrooms, where she serves as Managing Editor.