The Media’s Portrayal of Parental Addictions

The Media’s Portrayal of Parental Addictions

Parents dealing with drug addictions is the latest trend in media and news outlets coverage. It seems like every time you turn on the news, a recently surfaced video of drug-addicted parents dealing with their addictions while taking care of their children is running. News outlets are sure to portray these parents as harmful, negligent, and selfish. While sensationalism is rampant, there are compassionate ways to portray parents dealing with addiction. A video of fourteen-year-old Tori Brinkman showed how traumatizing and difficult having a parent with an addiction can be (Snow, 2017).

It can be hard to portray a parent’s suffering from an addiction as anything but dysfunctional, however, Eileen Fragiacomo (2017) portrays a different picture from what is typically seen on the news. Eileen was the daughter of a drug-addicted mother, Helen, who had Eileen picking up drugs for her by the age of nine years old. In her article, Eileen describes her fear of how her mother would behave and the drugs she would have taken when Eileen got home from school. Helen was similar to the news portrayals of drug-addicted parents; she was negligent towards Eileen and placed her daughter in reckless and dangerous situations to fulfill her addiction’s needs. When she was a child, Eileen explains her feeling at fault for her mother’s behavior, assuming that a lack of love is what leads her mother to disappear for multiple days at a time. It is obvious why the children of drug-addicted parents can be so emotionally and mentally distraught when growing up in a home that promotes such negative feelings and situations.

When Eileen describes her mother in these ways, she also thanks her mother for what she has learned from her. Eileen says that her mother was “…funny, wildly creative and wonderful… when she was sober. But she was a drug-addicted recluse – and had been since before [Eileen] was born. [Eileen] simply didn’t know her any other way” (2017). It is hard to look at the good when growing up in such a tough situation, but Eileen explains the good that was in her mother to remind readers that her mother was still a person, nonetheless. This is one thing that the media and news constantly forget to add. Angie, Eileen’s guardian, and grandmother taught her granddaughter that Helen was simply sick and once she had recovered, things would go back to normal, promoting a positive hope in Eileen. Angie made sure to teach Eileen that her mother was not a bad person for having an addiction. After her mother’s death, Eileen has come to the realization that because of her mother, she is now a kinder and stronger person, and understands what unconditional love for someone is now after living her life with a drug addicted parent (2017).

Thus, we come to a conclusion that prompts us to wonder: are the news and media covering parents suffering from drug addiction correctly? Eileen writes about her mother without judgment and remembers that her mother was a person like everyone else. When compared to the news outlets painting these parents as selfish, negligent and harmful, we must ask: is this a story that would inspire parents to get help for themselves and their children or continue their addictions from fear of being judged as such? It is unfair for parents wanting to get help for their addictions, but who are afraid to get help due to people considering them a selfish parent or a negligent parent.


Fragiacomo, E., (2017, October 10). “Surviving My Mother’s Drug Addiction.” Retrieved from

Snow, K., (2017, October 9). The Nightly News with Lester Holt. New York, NY: NBC News Retrieved from

Katelyn Gemelli

My high school psychology teacher and a course in abnormal psychology has helped me to discover a love for psychology and has made me strive to try to make a difference in the lives of those impacted by mental health. Furthermore, from volunteering as a Crisis Counselor for a crisis text-line, I have seen firsthand how challenging mental illnesses can be to live. My aim is that, over time and with the aid of The Humanology Project, people can get the help they need for their mental health/illnesses without fear or concern of judgement. A little about me includes my favorite place in the world being the Poconos Mountains, and that I have an unhealthy obsession with reading books, and Game of Thrones.

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