The Recovery Place Commends “Limitless” for Exposing Risks of Illegal Drug Use, But Fears Film’s Ending May Send Wrong Message
A new film, “Limitless,” which opened in theaters on March 18, 2011, was the highest grossing motion picture in the United States that weekend. A fast paced thriller, the film has garnered positive reviews from many critics, and is hailed for being innovative and gripping. Although the film depicts the dangers in illegal drug use, The Recovery Place fears the ending to the film may send the wrong message.
The basic premise of the film is that the protagonist, “Eddie Morra”, played by Bradley Cooper, is a lazy writer fast going nowhere who serendipitously is given an illegal drug that allows him to use 100% of his brain’s capacity. Until he takes the drug, “NZT,” he cannot even write the first paragraph of a book he’s under contract to produce. After months of wasting time and sliding further into dissipation and losing his girlfriend, he is scraping bottom, a totally non-productive member of society. An old acquaintance enters his life and offers him a pill containing the drug, reportedly a “legal” drug in clinical trials. Our slacker is told that “we only use 20% of our brains…this will allow you to use 100%.”
Shortly after taking the drug, Eddie discovers that his awareness of everything around him is enhanced dramatically, and he has near total recall of everything he’s ever read, seen, heard or otherwise learned. The transformation is astounding, and within a few hours Eddie has written several chapters of the book, in addition to seducing the landlord’s attractive young wife with his keen perception and mental prowess. Who wouldn’t want to experience a similar transformation? The effects of the drug are a siren’s song to anyone who’s ever dreamed of having limitless mental abilities: cerebral “muscles” on steroids.
As with all drugs, the effects are temporary. When he comes back to his reality, Eddie craves more of the drug. He does not want to live as “normal Eddie” but as “super Eddie.” Who can blame him?
Eddie discovers that the drug is in fact illegal, but he his able to obtain a source of it. Using the drug changes his life, and in addition to finishing his book, he realizes that he can spot trading patterns in the stock market. This leads him to the world of high finance, and more intrigue than it’s fair to reveal here. Suffice it to say that Eddie becomes a bit of a celebrity, and is leading the life of jet setter, attracting women and Wall Street types to him.
There’s just one little problem in this rosy scenario. Eddie learns that prolonged use of the drug causes serious health problems, and everyone else who’s used it is either very ill or dead.
Up to this point, Eddie’s experience as portrayed in “Limitless” has many parallels to the real world of drug addiction. Most people who use illicit drugs initially believe that using them enhances their abilities. A student who takes amphetamines in college to be able to pull “all nighters” to study for exams sees no harm in using substances to boost performance. Beginning users of cocaine often feel that they have more energy and are more productive by taking the drug. While euphoria and an enhanced sense of abilities may accompany drug use in the early days, continued use and repeated “crashing” ultimately prove the lie to these illusions.
The AMA determined in the 1950’s that alcoholism and drug abuse are a disease. Among the characteristics that make it a disease are its chronic nature and the fact that if left untreated, it leads to death. While Eddie’s enhanced mental powers in the film were “real,” the addictive nature of the drug and it’s chronic use lead to death. In this, the film’s portrayal of NZT and its effects and The Recovery Place’s deep knowledge of the effects of illicit drug use are completely in accord.
Where the professionals at The Recovery Place have a problem with the film is how it ends. Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that one could leave the film with a glorified view of illicit drugs, and therein lies a very real danger. Yes, this is a movie. Yes, this is fantasy. Sadly, however, separating fantasy from reality can sometimes be difficult, especially for a younger audience. The film is rated PG-13, and young teens, if anyone, are a group likely to take away the wrong message from the film.
The Recovery Place agrees with critics who find this a well written story, and on the level of fantasy, this is a fun film to watch. We only wish that the deadly consequences of sustained illegal drug do not get lost in the film’s ending.
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