Critics of hit US drama Breaking Bad claim it glorifies drug use, but an official on America's National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says the number of ‘committed’ methamphetamine users has actually dropped by as much as 200,000 since the show began airing in 2008.
“According to the United States government, there are over 15 million people over the age of 12 that have used methamphetamine at least once, and over 500,000 ‘committed’ users,” says Harris Stratyner, co-chair of the Medical/Scientific subcommittee of the NCADD.
“Peak use may actually be down compared with use between 2002 and 2006, when statistics offered were closer to 700,000 consistent users.
“The DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] has been stepping up its work to crack down on meth manufacturing since [Breaking Bad] began in 2008,” Stratyner told RadioTimes.com.
Now in its fifth and final series, Breaking Bad follows chemistry teacher Walter White, who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and resorts to making and selling crystal meth as a means to insure his family's financial security after he is gone.
The series tackles the wide-ranging problems caused by the methamphetamine industry in the USA, including the drug’s relationship to prostitution, money laundering and murder, and Stratyner counts himself among the show's millions of fans.
"[Breaking Bad is] compelling, and overall well done,” explained Stratyner. “I look at Breaking Bad as the Godfather of its time.”
Crystal meth is a highly addictive substance known as the ‘poor-man’s cocaine’. Usage can lead to cardiovascular problems, convulsions, extreme hypothermia, abscesses and psychosis.
There are also serious social issues associated with meth in the USA. “50 per cent percent of families where meth is used by at least one parent have children that end up in foster care,” says Stratyner.
Crystal meth use causes approximately 25,000 deaths per year in the US.
For help and advice with drug addiction see www.ncadd.org
Breaking Bad ia available on Netflix in the UK with new episodes released every Monday