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TV Shows That Totally Over-Exaggerated What It's Like To Be On Drugs

Updated September 23, 2021 12.1k votes 3.1k voters 189.9k views14 items

List RulesVote up the least accurate portrayals of drug use.

Everyone knows drugs are "bad." The wrong chemicals in the wrong brain at the wrong time can cause otherwise perfectly well-adjusted, law-abiding, compassionate people to commit acts of insanity, or indulge in disturbing pastimes like cannibalism. Yet no matter how insane certain drugs might make you act, the airwaves are rife with inaccurate portrayals of drugs on TV, most likely thanks to the centuries-long love affair between capitalist exploitation and protestant repression that so uniquely marks American culture. Welcome to a list of TV shows that exaggerated drug use in the most outlandish ways possible, making it impossible not to laugh or simply roll your eyes. 

Speaking of absurd TV drug trips, who could forget "very special episodes," the perfect encapsulation of "family" television's ham-fisted moralizing, which reached peak surrealism in the 1980s. Very special episodes were made to teach viewers lessons on important social issues like drug and alcohol use, violence, self-harm, racial prejudice, and pretty much anything else controversial. From the grotesque womb of this condescending succubus were birthed some of the most over-the-top drug trips on TV. 

Though very special episodes provided the world with some of the best, most over-the-top drug experiences on television, they're far from the only sinners. Television continues to prove that writing real yet strong storylines involving drugs is difficult to do. So get out your mirror and razor blade, because it's time to get crunk on some DARE ish.

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    "I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so... scared!" It's a Saved by the Bell episode everyone who was a kid in '90s America remembers. Jessie gets addicted to caffeine pills in a storyline that was written to address speed use. NBC wouldn't have it, so the producers pivoted from speed to caffeine pills - which ultimately makes more sense, because you can buy those at a convenience store, whereas with speed, you really have to want to get your hands on it.

    In this episode, brainy Jessie feels the stress of keeping up with school and her new band, Hot Sundae. To stay on top of things, she starts taking caffeine pills, but soon learns they do more damage than good. But not to fear: It only takes one episode for Jessie to get addicted and overcome addiction. 

    • Actors: Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen, Mario López, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren, Dustin Diamond
    • Premiered: November 30, 1988
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    In 'Dragnet,' Smoking Pot Means You Will Endanger Your Child

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    Oh, the dangers of pot! In a very special episode of Dragnet called "The Big High," an elderly businessman asks Sergeant Joe Friday and Officer Bill Gannon for help, as he believes his daughter and son-in-law - the Shipleys - are hooked on the devil's lettuce.

    The two make a visit to the home of the couple in question, who seem like well-to-do, educated folks who just like to kick back once in a while, listen to some jazz, and light a jay. The police technically don't have the legal ability to arrest the couple, but they can't help but fear for the safety of the couple's infant daughter. The two cops visit a friend in Child Protective Services for help, but since there is no evidence of any type of abuse, she says her hands are tied. 

    Later on, a man is brought in for pot that he got from - gasp! - the Shipleys. This is enough fuel for the cops, who go raid a reefer-smokin' party at the couple's San Fernando Valley home. The couple is initially annoyed that the cops are back again, and then they realize that their daughter is missing from her playpen. Somehow, the weed made them forget they started to draw a bath for their infant child, who drowned in an overflowing tub. Yes, cannabis can cause some short-term memory loss, but it doesn't turn you into a neglectful parent. In fact, some people argue that it makes them better parents. Chances are, if you really started drawing a bath for your child while you were stoned, you would be too paranoid to leave. 

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      Boy Meets World was a beloved show that was on everyone's TV every Friday night throughout the '90s. 

      In the Season 5 episode "If You Can't Be With the One You Love...," Cory and Shawn get drunk for the first time. Cory overdoes it and decides not to drink anymore; Shawn likes drinking too much, and becomes an alcoholic in a week.

      Cory, Jack, Angela, and Topanga stage a makeshift intervention. Things escalate. A drunken Shawn shoves Angela, then sees the error of his way. By the end of the episode, he's cured of alcoholism, makes amends with everyone, and is totally fine.

      • Actors: Ben Savage, William Daniels, Betsy Randle, Will Friedle, Rider Strong
      • Premiered: September 24, 1993
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    • One Tree Hill had its share of teen issues like drinking, sex, cheating, and teen pregnancy, but it steered away from controlled substances until Season 2, when Peyton is faced with the decision to fit in with the "cool" musicians and do some blow or be deemed a loser by the people she's trying to impress. Episode 4, titled "You Can't Always Get What You Want", is basically Scarface in 45 minutes. 

      The short-lived storyline has a tearful ending, when Peyton admits she tried coke after feeling so alone. All is resolved when her boyfriend Jake comes back into town and saves Peyton from making any more bad decisions. Way to go, patriarchy!

      The episode leaves one lingering question - is Peyton the only person in the world to feel bad after doing coke? The negative feelings and bad mojo surrounding the substance on One Tree Hill make you wonder whether any of the writers have ever huffed a rail, because the effect is quite the opposite. 

      • Actors: Sophia Bush, Bethany Joy Lenz, James Lafferty, Robert Buckley, Austin Nichols
      • Premiered: September 23, 2003
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