The Best TV Shows About Addiction And Recovery

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

aaron paul breaking bad addiction

Make no mistake about it, while there are tons of crud being shown on television these days, it still can be one powerful tool when it sets its mind to it. Case in point, TV shows that revolve around addiction and recovery. When handled properly, these series can highlight the brutal downfall of the addicted and the uplifting journey taken to sobriety. Some shows take place in the real world, while others are more fictional, even using humor as the backdrop to addiction.

Here are seven of the best television shows that deal with addiction and recovery. While many shows prefer to glorify the use of drugs and alcohol, these offer candid looks at the horrors of drug and alcohol abuse and the slow, pot-filled road to recovery.

Best TV Shows About Addiction and Recovery


Shameless is a fascinating TV series about addiction that comes from noted creator John Wells (ER, The West Wing) which he based on the Paul Abbott British TV series of the same name. The series revolves around Frank Gallagher, a father of six, who is only interested in where he will be getting his next drink or drugs.

William H. Macy expertly portrays Frank while Emmy Rossum plays his eldest daughter, Fiona, the one who takes on the responsibility for her siblings’ well-being while Frank looks for his next score. Fiona’s problem is that she too is a drug and alcohol addict. The hit series ran on Showtime for 11 seasons, making it the longest-running series in Showtime history.

Breaking Bad

breaking bad tortoise

Believe it or not, sometimes you don’t have to be taking drugs to be addicted to them. Breaking Bad, while it does deal with mass addiction, shows perfectly how one can get involved with the drug trade and become addicted to it while not taking the drugs themselves.

Breaking Bad is the critically acclaimed series from Vince Gilligan that centers around Walter White (Bryan Cranston) a high-school chemistry teacher turned drug maker/dealer after learning he has stage three lung cancer.

Arron Paul plays Jesse Pinkman, a former student of White’s who becomes his partner in the drug trade. It is Jesse who finally becomes the addict, having to eventually come back from his heroin addiction.


We all know that drug and alcohol addiction is no laughing matter, so the Chuck Lorre-created sitcom Mom had to walk that fine line between comedy and offending those who continue to face their demons.

The end result was the series was both critically and audience acclaimed as Mom expertly handled drug and alcohol addiction along with other real-life issues such as gambling addiction, relapse, overdose, teen pregnancy, miscarriage, and a myriad of other serious troubles, all with a smile on its face.

Anna Faris stars as Christy Plunkett, the estranged daughter of Bonnie Plunkett, both recovering addicts. The series followed the two as they attempted to put their relationship back together while dealing with the pitfalls of addiction.

Recovery Road

Recovery Road was a Freeform TV series that was based on the 2011 Blake Nelson novel of the same name. Although the teen drama lasted only one season, critics found the series to be well done. The series revolved around Maddie (Jessica Sula), a teen with a major addiction problem.

She is a high-functioning addict who finally realizes her addiction is something she can’t beat on her own, so she makes the tough decision to live with other addicts in a rehab facility. Teenage life has never been easy, but when dealing with an addiction can make it downright miserable.

Nurse Jackie


Addiction and healthcare workers, an issue that happens more often than one would think. Nurse Jackie follows an emergency room nurse (Edie Falco) who always seems to be going above and beyond in the care of her patients. But to make this happen, Jackie hides a debilitating secret.

She is a pill addict, relying massively on Adderall and Vicodin to get her through her days and nights in a New York emergency room.

The series, which ran for seven seasons, was a personal one for Falco as she is a recovering alcoholic.

The Cleaner


The Cleaner is a TV show that follows former addict William Banks, played by Benjamin Bratt, who makes a deal with God when his daughter is born that if given a second chance, he will kick his drug habit and dedicate his life to those addicts in need of help. William does just that by “cleaning” their addictions.

His methods are somewhat vigilante in style and have caught the eye of the LA police department, but his results are so effective they tend to let him continue his work. The series also stars Battlestar Galactica vet Grace Park.



Intervention is one of the most intense and notable TV series that follows addiction and recovery. It is a reality series that has been on the air for 24 seasons and follows certified “interventionists” as they deal with the many who are afflicted with drug, alcohol, and even eating addictions.

The series can sometimes be very graphic in the drug use and its effects as the interventionists not only have to deal with the addicts but those family members and friends whose lives are also affected by the addict. Intervention is also known for showing recovery efforts centered around certain celebrity stars as well.