Powered by i.TV
October 22, 2014

On the Pill: 'Nurse Jackie' and Other Characters Struggling With Addiction

by Chris Harnick, posted Mar 19th 2010 2:00PM
Drugs on TV have had a strange history. There have been after-school movies, very special sitcom episodes and even entire dramas based around illegal substances.

Sometimes, drug abuse on TV is used to teach the audience a lesson, while other times writers have characters develop an addiction as a way of making them more human in a flawed sense.

One of the most recent drug abusers comes to us in the form of Edie Falco's title character on 'Nurse Jackie.' The medical drama is back with a vengeance (Mon., March 22 10PM on Showtime), and to celebrate the return of our favorite no-nonsense RN, we're taking a look at TV's other famous pill-popping characters we've come to love (despite their issues) over the years.

We're not endorsing drug abuse of any kind, but it's a fact of life for some people, including these TV characters.

Find out who made our list after the jump.Drugs on TV have had a strange history. There have been after-school movies, very special sitcom episodes and even entire dramas based around illegal substances.

Sometimes, drug abuse on TV is used to teach the audience a lesson, while other times writers have characters develop an addiction as a way of making them more human in a flawed sense.

One of the most recent drug abusers comes to us in the form of Edie Falco's title character on 'Nurse Jackie.' The medical drama is back with a vengeance (Mon., March 22 10PM on Showtime), and to celebrate the return of our favorite no-nonsense RN, we're taking a look at TV's other famous pill-popping characters we've come to love (despite their issues) over the years.

We're not endorsing drug abuse of any kind, but it's a fact of life for some people, including these TV characters.

House Hugh LaurieDr. Gregory House, 'House'
The current face of TV curmudgeon, House (Hugh Laurie) used to pop a Vicodin a day for his leg pain. After a bout of denial, House admitted his addiction to the pain pill, but refused to seek treatment. The good doctor claimed his addiction did not interfere with his work. He eventually went through detox and found other addictions -- like sex.

Mischa Barton The OCMarissa, 'The O.C.'
Not everybody loved Marissa (Mischa Barton), but boy did she bring the drama to Newport Beach. During the first season, Marissa and the gang took a trip to Tijuana. In true 'O.C.' fashion, characters hooked up, feelings got hurt and as a result the already fragile Marissa turned to alcohol and a pill bottle. Marissa's erstwhile beau, Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie), found her unconscious in an alley and came to her rescue in a slow-mo blaze of sweaty glory. Marissa went to counseling and the show introduced Oliver ... and the rest is 'O.C.' history.

NBC Megan Mullally Will & GraceKaren, 'Will & Grace'
The bubbly and hilarious Karen used pills and various medication in a recreational way; maybe that's why she was so funny and absurd? Throughout the series, Karen (Megan Mullally), made references to and admitted being high on various kinds of drugs. Jack Black guest starred as Karen's doctor in a season 6 episode and revealed the boozy scene-stealer was taking every drug in the Merck Pharmaceutical catalog. The show played Karen's drug and alcohol use for laughs and we wouldn't have it any other way. A very special episode of 'Will & Grace' where Karen hit rock bottom would not have fit the show's eccentric tone.

Saved by the Bell Elizabeth BerkleyJessie, 'Saved by the Bell'
Where to start? Jessie's (Elizabeth Berkley) caffeine pill-popping binge lasted one episode and created one of the most viral clips and sayings in TV history. There's nothing else to say except: "I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so ... scared!" Relive the memory below:



Glee Lea MicheleThe Glee Club, 'Glee'
It was only for one episode, but when the kids from 'Glee' turned to allergy medication at the behest of Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig), the outcome was kind of cool. The boys and girls competed in a hyper battle of the sexes that gave the audience great mash-up songs of 'Halo' with 'Walking On Sunshine' and 'It's My Life' with 'Confessions Part II.'

Matthew Fox LostJack, 'Lost'
An extended stay on mysterious island can mess with a guy. Add that to the fact that Jack (Matthew Fox) and only a handful of others were rescued, leaving the rest behind, and you've got the recipe for a mental breakdown. During Jack's time back on the mainland as one of the Oceanic 6, he started feeling survivor's guilt. He also got together with, then eventually split from Kate (Evangeline Lilly). As if that wasn't enough stress, Jack began seeing visions of his dead father -- again. Seeking relief, Jack turned to the pill bottle. As a doctor, he made some sneaky moves to keep his pill-popping habit afloat, like posing as his dead dad.

Without a Trace Eric CloseMartin, 'Without a Trace'
After a brutal ambush and gun fight at the end of season 3, Martin Fitzgerald (Eric Close) battled an addiction to prescription painkillers. The fourth season of 'Without a Trace' showed the FBI agent struggle with his addiction; at one point, he even stole pills from a victim's home. Eventually, Martin realized he had a problem and took steps to get on the road to recovery.

Noah Wyle ERCarter, 'ER'
Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) was in a world of pain. A vicious attack left his medical student, Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin), dead and Carter fighting for his life. He pulled through, but didn't come away unscathed. The stabbing damaged his kidney and left him in some serious pain. The attack also led to his dependency on painkillers. His downward spiral continued until Abby (Maura Tierney) and the other doctors stepped in and issued an ultimatum. Carter went to rehab and eventually returned to work.


Family Ties Michael J. FoxAlex, 'Family Ties'

It took a "very special episode" to get Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) hopped-up on diet pills. In an attempt to cram for a couple of tests, Alex borrowed some pills from his sister and quickly became addicted. He painted the house, threatened his sister for more pills and eventually crashed, missing his tests. Yup, Alex became an addict and ditched his habit all in a half-hour.

Jennie Garth 90210Kelly, 'Beverly Hills, 90210'
Life in Beverly Hills could be rough, we get it. There are lots of pressures that come with living the privileged life, but that didn't mean Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) had to turn to drugs in order to gain control over her life. Kelly's life was turned upside down when her mom got married, had a baby and sold her childhood home. Those stress factors coupled with an increasing anxiety about her figure led Kelly to abuse diet pills to the point of hospitalization. She was confronted about her eating disorder and got help. These days Kelly is all clean and advising the new youngsters on '90210.'


One Tree Hill Barbara Alyn WoodsDeb, 'One Tree Hill'

Unlike a couple others that made this list, Deb (Barbara Alyn Woods) actually had an extensive battle with painkiller abuse. Her life took an unexpected turn after her son, Nathan, got married at a young age. Nathan's marriage, coupled with the stress of living with Dan Scott (Paul Johansson) led Deb to pick up the painkillers. After Nathan got in a car accident, Deb volunteered to give him blood, but was turned down because of her painkiller abuse. Taking it as a sign, Deb checked into rehab. Her pill-popping ways returned in season 4 after Dan threatened to kill her. Karen checks Deb into rehab, but Deb didn't stay. After hitting rock bottom Deb moved in with Nathan and cleaned up her act.

Sound off: Do you have a favorite "very special episode?"
Which show do you think handled drug abuse the best?

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

Follow Us

From Our Partners