In the show Jessica Jones, we see the character Malcolm undertake a withdrawal from his drug addition. What surprised me is that the titular character (Jessica Jones) handcuffed Malcolm to the wall in order to have him go 'cold-turkey' (i.e. flat-out stop taking drugs without going through a process of weaning himself off of his heavy drug habit).

Even a quick Google search shows that this can straight up kill someone. I'm not the biggest fan of this series, but surely taking someone going through drug withdrawal to a hospital where they can be given some kind of dosage to ease the symptoms and avoid dying or having permanent consequences seems pretty basic to me.

Was his withdrawal shown this way because of the laws about depicting drug use in the U.S., or have I missed something?

1 Answer 1


In a word, no. Malcolm's addiction was to heroin and while there's a statistical medical risk associated with opioid withdrawal, the reality is that someone in otherwise good health with no underlying heart conditions, with no associated psychological disorders and who isn't abusing any other substances would be highly unlikely (fractions of a percent) to suffer from a withdrawal side-effect that was deadly.

Referring to the excellent "Drugs of Abuse and Addiction: Neurobehavioral Toxicology" by Niesink, Jaspers, Kornet and Ree

"[Heroin withdrawal] is time limited … and not life-threatening, thus can be easily controlled by reassurance, personal attention and general nursing care..."

Added to this is the fact that his condition was monitored by his friends (who were apparently providing him with food and drink to prevent dehydration) and his percentage chance of actually dying drops to an almost statistically insignificant percentage of risk.

As to why his detox was portrayed as it was, within the show, we can see that the actor (Eka Darville) watched a number of videos of heroin users taking themselves through withdrawal in order to prepare for the role so he and the filmmakers would have been very aware that medical intervention isn't actually a necessity.

Malcolm suffers from drug addiction. Part of the prep for a character who's going through that kind of experience with drugs, and in particular heroin, is understanding the psychology behind that addiction and how it plays out in people's lives. I did a lot of research. I watched every dude on YouTube filming themselves going through detox. It's a weird and dark little corner of the internet, and I spent a lot of time going there. The most interesting part is the bargaining and the denial, and just the degree of self-talk and psychosis that goes into convincing those people around you that you're fine. There's very definitive behavioral things that come along with that.

You may wish to note that other shows (such as The Wire) have shown medically-supported detox so it's unlikely that there are specific laws that prevent this.

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