The Basketball Diaries
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Within Hollywood’s movies depiction of drug addiction, many have failed to represent all true aspects that come along with such lifestyles. The movie, The Basketball Diaries, is based off a novel Jim Carroll wrote from his own diary entries. As a teenager growing up in the sixties, Carroll reveals his progression of drug abuse which eventually leads him addicted to heroin.Heroin is a white powder derived from morphine found in opium. It is commonly prescribed as a painkiller, but is also a popular street drug.The director casted Leonardo DiCaprio as Jimmy, and concentrates on creating the character as a stereotypical drug abuser. DiCaprio’s most captivating scene is when he is going through heroin withdrawals. The viewer also get an accurate depiction of heroin when Jimmy is describing his first time using heroin.Overall the movie is probably one of the best at revealing the realities of drug abuse by not glamorizing it but by showing the downward spiral it can cause on ones life. By analyzing Jimmy’s first time using and eventual dependence of heroin it is easy to see there are realistic and unrealistic scenes to The Basketball Diaries.
The movie follows Jim Carroll through his progression of drug use and the circumstances that led to him to finally become sober. At the beginning, Jim has many friends, attends a Catholic School, and is a star on his basketball team. Even with such protective factors in play, Jim finds himself and friends taking drugs and participating in risky behavior. He starts off huffing, moves to snorting cocaine, takes barbiturates, and eventually become heavily addicted to heroin. His addiction slowly takes over his life, as he stops playing basketball, drops out of school, and get kicks out of his house. After going through an intense withdrawal, he still abuses drugs and does not become sober until after getting arrested. In the end Jim is seen talking to others about his addiction, in hopes to prevent others from following his tracks.
As Jimmy’s drug abuse gets worse through the movie he finds himself trying heroin.The development of his use is extremely fast in the film and is probably not completely accurate to real life. He shoots up his first time, while most user progress from snorting to popping and then to using needles. Many heroin users report feeling a “rush” when shooting up heroin.While a scene of Jim running through a field plays, he describes, “It was like a long heat wave through my body, any ache and pain or feeling of sadness was completely flushed out.” This “rush” is causes by the rapid entry of heroin into the brain and the attachment of 6-acetyl-morphine and morphine to opioid receptors. It usually last one or two minutes right after administration.
The euphoric effect is caused by the reduction of GABA neurons, which ultimately increases the amount of dopamine produced. Jimmy also compares it to one of the most intense orgasms he has ever had. Recent imaging studies have found that the areas the brain most active during ejaculation are also most active following heroin injection. After his first time using Jim describes,“I felt dazed, like I just came out of a four hour movie I did not understand.” Many people who take opiates experience a subjective sense of mental dullness and often report feeling dreamy or spacey The movie does a legitimate job describing and interpreting the “rush” phenomenon and the after effects of first time use.
Many heroin users have an extremely hard time quitting for long periods of time. This is due to both psychological and physical dependence.The movie does a great job portraying the physical but fails to accurately depict the psychological.Physical dependence is shown when Jimmy’s friend forces him to sustain from heroin.Many users keep abusing heroin to avoid the withdrawal effects.Usually six hours after the last dose of daily users, do they start to become anxious and cravings set in. This is shown when Jim starts scrambling to find his drugs and attacks his friend who has the heroin.As the effects of withdrawals take hold, Jim is constantly shivering. The chills are very common and occur even though the bodies temperature is rising.
Overproduction of body fluids also takes place. This can be seen through Jims extremely runny nose and excessive sweating.This initial withdrawal is characterized by the body attempting to regain homeostasis as a result of the brain’s lack of opiate receptor activity. This scene portrays the severe emotional and physical aspects of heroin withdrawal. After becoming sober, a scene shows Jimmy turning down heroin from a friend without thinking twice. This does not match up with the reports that cravings last way after abstinence due to the development of a Pavlovian conditioned drive state. Such cravings are triggered anytime the person is in a situation previously associated with the drug experience. While physical dependence is portrayed correctly, the director failed to capture the psychological dependence of the typical heroin abuser.
The Basketball Diaries, has both realistic and unrealistic representations of heroin abuse throughout the movie. Dicaprios acting does a great job capturing the negative effects drugs can have on someone both physically and emotionally. The “rush” phenomenon, physical dependence, and withdrawals are all accurately displayed within the movie. Even though based on a real life addiction, the parts like the psychological dependence and the extreme development of heroin give reason to think the director skewed the book. The directors focus on a stereotyped user, leaves the viewer left questioning if the movie matches the real life story of Jim Carroll. By analyzing Jimmy’s first time using and eventual dependence of heroin to it is easy to see the inaccurate and accurate images the director created of a stereotyped heroin user.
Grilly, David M., J. D. Salamone, and David M. Grilly. Drugs, Brain, and Behavior. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Print.
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