Showtime’s Nurse Jackie is Normalizing Prescription Drug Abuse

Showtime’s Nurse Jackie is a character study more than it is about the trial and tribulations of a hospital emergency room.

Jackie is a woman that portrays today’s standard of a middle aged prescription drug abuser. She normalizes the opiate taking epidemic for this age group.

Jackie is not a woman who is missing work or making bad judgments when it comes to taking care of patients due to her drug use.

The contrary appears to be true, the Percocets, Oxycontin, and Demerol that she takes seems to make her some what of a super nurse, according to an ABC News Health article.

At least once in each show Jackie is shown crushing and snorting or swallowing some type of pain killer. She has also learned all the ins and outs of “scoring” the drugs through her line of work.

She has learned how to reset the electronic pill dispensing machine so that her withdrawals will not be recorded back to her. Before that new technology came on board, she was having sex with the pharmacist who would dole out the pills to her like they were candy.

Not only has Jackie normalized the taking of these drugs, but she has also normalized the unscrupulous ways of obtaining them. People like to watch TV programs that they can relate to and Nurse Jackie is relating to a large group of people. Now I am not saying that everyone who enjoys this show is abusing prescription drugs, I am saying that it is a show many out there can see themselves in.

The age group that is the most prevalent for abusing the narcotic prescription pain medication is not the young adults as you might think. In fact the most deaths that have occurred from overdoses of these drugs are in the age group of adults from 35 to 55 according to AARP. The problem is growing in the retirement age group and the elderly too.

Jackie is able to justify the taking of these pain killers and the illegal way that she obtains them by doing it for the greater good. The greater good is that the pills help her to work longer hours and keep her at an even keel while under a great deal of stress.


She is smart, clever, and very quick thinking when it comes to medical care for the patients in the emergency room. She is better than any of the doctor’s she works with when it comes to diagnosing and administering treatment to the patients. Jackie basically runs the emergency department, even though she does not have that title.

All of the above works for rationalizing and normalizing the pain killer abuse by regular people just out trying to make a living. There has always been a stigma on drug abusers and Nurse Jackie takes that stigma away. The drug abuser is no longer sitting in a dark hallway doing the drugs or laying in a bed incoherent suffering from the affects.

The new drug abuser is middle aged and carrying on in a high stress career while doing a great job of it. She is quick thinking, empathetic, and somewhat of a superwoman. This is what Nurse Jackie is and many people are relating to this.