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Addiction And Requiem For A Dream

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Category: Psychology

Autor: anton 14 November 2010

Words: 1987 | Pages: 8

Requiem for a Dream depicts four individuals and their addictions to cocaine, heroin, and diet pills. Set in Brooklyn, New York, the characters each have their own dreams and addictions and their drugs are easily attainable trapping them in a cycle of dependence. The central character, Harry Goldfarb, is a young man who lives in virtual poverty because every cent he earns or steals goes toward his next high. He dreams of making a big enough score selling dope that will lead him to becoming financially stable and “on Easy Street” as he makes a home with his girlfriend. Tyrone, his best friend and business partner shares many of Harry’s aspirations and addictions. Marion Jones, Harry’s girlfriend, is an addict like her boyfriend and dreams of starting her own clothing business. The couple’s addiction to drugs leads to the breakdown and ultimate demise of their love. Harry's widowed mother, Sara Goldfarb is as addicted to television as her son is to drugs. Following a visit her doctor concerning her weight, she is on her way to becoming hooked on the uppers and downers given to her to aid in her weight loss.

Drug addiction is a medical disease characterized by biochemical changes in brain chemistry that play a significant role in the physical symptoms of addiction, including cravings, seeking, withdrawal, and the persistent use even in the face of negative consequences. Whatever the drug of choice, its abuse can be identified by the maladaptive way in which it takes over the user's life, disrupting his or her relationships, daily functioning, and mental state. Drug addiction can be physical and/or psychological. Physical addiction characterized by tolerance and withdrawal, while psychological dependence consists of the user’s need of the drug to maintain mental well-being. The signs and symptoms of drug addiction are tolerance, withdrawal, inability to stop using, preoccupation with using, giving up of or reducing activities that were once enjoyable, failure to fulfill social roles and obligations, using the drug under dangerous conditions, taking risks while using, drug-related legal problems, and drug-related interpersonal problems (Davison, 2007).

Most drug users do not start off with an addiction. They follow a natural progression towards drug abuse and dependence. Substance abuse usually starts as experimentation, the voluntary use of the drug frequently to solve a problem or to self medicate. The substance seems to be doing something positive in the eye of the user, so the individual begins taking more and enters the next stage, regular use. Some users will stay in this stage never developing a problem, while others will start using the substance in a way that can harm themselves or others, such as driving while intoxicated. The transition from regular use to regular use with risky behavior is often difficult to pinpoint. This risky use leads to substance dependence. The user may not be able to fulfill his/her major responsibilities at work or within the family, they repeatedly use the substance in dangerous situations, and may have repeated legal problems caused by using. They may repeatedly fail to show up for work and become withdrawn from their family members who will be able to detect the change in personality over time. Dependence than leads to addiction, which consists of uncontrollable drug craving, seeking, and use that persists even in the face of negative consequences. The user will often do anything to obtain the substance, including stealing, prostitution, and sale of the drug for profit. They may be completely withdrawn at this point from conventional society and only maintain relationships with other users. Addiction is a progressive disease and is long standing (The Partnership, 2006).

Medication and behavioral therapy are aspects of a rehabilitation process that often begins with detoxification. Easing withdrawal symptoms is very important in the first stages of treatment and in preventing a relapse. Inpatient hospital treatment provides such remedies. A customized treatment regimen can be crucial to a person’s success in recovery. Not every addict should be treated the same. The regimen should address all of the aspects of an individual's life, including medical and mental health and follow up options. Behavioral Treatments help patients modify their attitudes and behaviors and increase healthy lifestyle skills and options. They can enhance the effectiveness of medication and help addicts stay committed to the treatment process. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a behavioral treatment with the goal of helping the user recognize, avoid, and cope with anything and everything involving their drug use and recovery (Davison, 2007). Therapeutic communities can also be extremely effective, especially for those who are severely addicted. They are highly structured programs that often involve residency for up to 12 months. It is important to recognize that no single treatment is appropriate for all individuals addicted to drugs (National, 2005).

In Requiem for a Dream, the main character, Harry Goldfarb is a heavy drug user. He is addicted to heroin and any other substance that he can inject into his veins. He uses marijuana and other drugs occasionally, but heroin is his drug of choice. The film opens with a symptom of Harry’s addiction. He is stealing his mother’s television set to pawn for money to buy drugs, which she then re-purchases later in the day and the cycle continues. Harry is clearly failing to fill his social role as a son in order to get high. The drugs come first to this young man. He has a preoccupation with the drug so much so that it leads him to begin buying and selling dope as a means of making money and getting high, rejecting conventional society.

Harry is never formally diagnosed, but the symptoms he shows throughout the film make it clear to the audience that he is addicted to drugs. His interpersonal relationships are slowly destroyed. Harry’s only relationships are with other drug abusers, and it is clear that the only time he visits his lonely mother is when he needs money for drugs. As the film progresses, his relationship with his girlfriend deteriorates when he is unable to keep a steady flow of drugs and money coming into his home. They constantly bicker, and in a last ditch attempt to hit it big, Harry encourages the prostitution of Marion to her psychiatrist in order to obtain a large sum of money that will allow them to buy enough dope to be able to sell it and make a profit.

The drug becomes more important than his relationships and his health. He uses despite obvious negative consequences, and continues to shoot heroin into a wounded and infected arm. Even when the wound causes him so much pain, the craving for the drug takes over and he continues to inject until the wound morphs into a gaping, discolored, oozing hole. In a last ditch attempt to score, Harry and his best friend seek out their drugs in Florida, and on the way there, are arrested. In jail, both characters begin to go into withdrawal and Harry’s arm worsens to the point where he is unable to function. By the end of the film, Harry is in a hospital bed with an amputated arm. By never receiving treatment, his craving for the drug destroyed his health, his relationships, his dreams, and ultimately his entire life.

The film did not offer any clear cut explanation of the etiology of Harry’s drug addiction, but it can be inferred throughout the movie. Socio-cultural factors, psychological factors, and genetic factors combined cause Harry to turn to drugs. The socio-cultural model suggests that the social world can affects people’s interest and access to drugs (Davison, 2007). Drugs are readily available in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, making it easy to start using and possibly become dependent on substances. Also, Harry’s peer group abuses drugs as well, making it difficult to stop using when an individual belongs to a drug subculture. Lastly, Harry is chasing the “American Dream” of wealth and success. He rejects conventional means to attain that dream and turns to the sale of drugs as a quick way to “Easy Street.”

The psychological model suggests that there are psychological factors that contribute to the etiology of drug abuse, such as mood alteration and personality (Davison, 2007). Mood alteration plays a clear role in Harry’s substance abuse. Harry uses to reduce negative effect (while in a taxi after an upsetting meeting with his mother) and out of boredom (while waiting for Tyrone to return with a score). In both cases, drug use reflects the inability of the individual to cope with certain emotions. The genetic model suggests that there is some genetic predisposition for the abuse and addiction to substances (Davison, 2007). It is clear in the film that this could be one explanation of Harry’s addiction because the viewer watches his mother become addicted to diet pills at the same time that Harry is falling deeper and deeper into his drug use.

Requiem for a Dream portrays drug addiction very accurately. Many sources glamorize drug use and this film did not. It shows the harsh realities of drug addiction and the way it destroys relationships and lives. It accurately depicts the signs and symptoms and the progressive course of the disorder, although is does not provide an answer as to when, why, and how Harry and his friends were introduced to drugs in the first place. The film picks up when Harry is already heavily abusing several substances. The film also does not give a clear cut reason as to why he continues to use drugs, but you are able to infer why by analyzing the settings and the relationships within the movie. The film shows each character falling heavily into addictions, while some people naturally age out of using substances or are given treatment at the right time and can fully recover. While it is common to turn to prostitution and other unconventional means to obtain drugs in the later stages of addiction, this is not always the case. The film did a fantastic job at portraying addiction but it did it in its most severe form.

Requiem for a Dream is not only a commentary of drug addiction, it is commenting on addiction in a wider sense. The characters are addicted to drugs, food, impossible dreams, sex, old memories, and success. Their desire to attain the “American Dream” leads them to drugs as a way of attaining that dream and coping when they realize that dream is not easily attainable. In that sense, the film is a social commentary, but it is also a political commentary on the relationship between the state and the individual. Toward the end of the film, Harry, Tyrone, and Sara become institutionalized in a hospital, a prison, and a mental institution. These institutions are impersonal and do nothing to help and care for the addict on an individual basis. Institutionalization will not help the addict to recover, only keep him/her off the streets and out of conventional society (Wikipedia, 2007).

The film accurately portrays drug addiction. Drugs gradually take over the lives of these four main characters replacing everything from food and sex to their precious aspirations. Drugs become their only source of pain or pleasure and form the basis of their relationships with one another. Despite their aspirations of greatness, they succumb to their ferocious addictions, and lose everything of importance by the closing credits.

Works Cited

Author unknown. Requiem for a Dream. In Wikipedia, The online encyclopedia.

Retrieved April 12, 2007 from source.

Davison, Gerald C., Johnson, Sheri L., Kring, Anna M., & Neale, John M. (2007).

Abnormal Psychology: the Tenth Edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2005). Research Report Series – Therapeutic

Communities. Retrieved April 12, 2007, from the World Wide Web:

The Partnership for a Drug Free America. (2006). Stages of Substance

Abuse. Retrieved April 12, 2007, from the World Wide Web:

Watson, E., & Aronofsky, D. (2000). Requiem for a Dream. United States:

Artisan Entertainment.

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