Dear TV Producers, You Forgot to Say “Don’t Try This at Home.”

Confession: I have been watching the reality show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I don’t typically have time to watch television, but I end up attaching myself to one reality series for a season. Most often, it is a design competition or cooking show that I watch once a week, such as Project Runway or Top Chef.

Quite frankly, I don’t take shows like The Real Housewives seriously and often wonder if it is bordering on obscene to have such lavish lifestyles displayed on the televisions of homes across America (and around the world) during these hard economic times. But I was particularly disappointed in some of the footage that was shown on last night’s episode. On the show, one of the castmembers took an unknown amount of xanax (a prescription drug that can cause drowsiness and is used for particular types of anxiety) for a flight and was also filmed drinking alcohol (also an unknown amount, though it appeared to be more than 1 drink) while on it. She was clearly affected by the combination, exhibiting psychomotor slowing and slurred speech that was surprisingly more inappropriate than usual for this particular person. What’s worse is that her friends found her all the more entertaining while overly intoxicated and never once cautioned her (or the audience) against combining xanax and alcohol. As a matter of fact, I would argue, this combo seemed to be promoted by portraying this person as entertaining and funny and by devoting a fair amount of air time to her intoxicated state.

The risks of xanax-plus-alcohol were dangerously downplayed here. Both substances depress the central nervous system and can cause coma and death whe taken in excess quantities or used together. The combination of even small amounts can lead to dangerous levels of sedation, poor judgment, and unsafe situations.

I did a web search on the topic of xanax and alcohol and this particular episode to see if anyone else had commented on the high risk behavior depicted in the show. None of the search results explicitly pointed out the dangers of mixing the two drugs. In fact, most blogposts and articles painted it as “awesome entertainment.” The unfortunate fact is, though, that we now live in a time where more Americans die from prescription drugs than from car crashes.  So what makes for good television ratings makes a doctor like me cringe. Xanax is a high-risk medication. Irresponsible use of high-risk prescription drugs should not be glorified on television.

Dear producers, if you want to put that sort of behavior on TV – which I would rather you didn’t – then at least include a stern cautionary warning about it, even if it is only in writing at the end of the episode.

Hopefully, this particular castmember’s own doctor is watching the show and reminds her at her next appointment not to mix xanax and alcohol. Hopefully.

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About Linda Pourmassina, MD

Internal Medicine physician.
This entry was posted in Current Events, Patient education/tips, Pop Culture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dear TV Producers, You Forgot to Say “Don’t Try This at Home.”

  1. Joanne says:

    I never watch these types of programs but found myself eerily drawn into the premiere season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while I was hospitalized with pancreatitis and on fentanyl. So, anecdotally speaking, an intelligent person must be on drugs themselves to like these shows. :)

  2. I worked for a number of years in the Field of Addiction, so perhaps I’m more sensitive about making light of someone who is in an impaired state due to Alcohol and/ or Other Drugs.

    I recently heard an interview with Candy Lightner, the Founder of MADD as she discussed the methods she used to help change perceptions and laws regarding impaired drivers.

    “She appeared on major television shows such as Nightline and Good Morning America, spoke before the US Congress, addressed professional and business groups, and worked tirelessly for years to change public attitudes, modify judicial behavior, and promote tough new legislation. ”

    Source: http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/1119636699.html

    I”m glad you chose this topic. If we speak up and challenge the manner in which the misuse and/or abuse of Alcohol and other drugs are portrayed in the media, we know this can be a powerful way to help change perception and behavior.

  3. Ravak says:

    I agree. And I also don’t find Ambien funny, yet there are numerous occasions on tv and print that it is referred to as having ‘fun’ side effects. This is prescription medication for a reason!

  4. Shannon says:

    Great post Linda!

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