Pretty Little Liars may be in trouble with the Canadian regulatory agency for broadcasting for portraying the misuse of a prescription drug — i.e. Spencer’s problem with Adderall — in several episodes. According to The Toronto Sun, a group of doctors, lawyers, and researchers have filed a complaint against the show.
As any Pretty Little Liars fan knows, a major subplot in Season 4B has been Spencer’s relapse into drug addiction. In Season 4, Episode 17, she started taking the “study drug” in an attempt to keep her investigation into Ezra going. The addiction quickly spiraled out of control, and five episodes later, Spencer has attended a three-day detox program and is now out-of-school under the supervision of a live-in (and extremely sexy) drug addiction counselor.
So, what does this group of Canadian professionals take issue with? According to Adrienne Shnier, a PhD candidate at York University: “Not only do they show the medication in scenes where it isn’t necessary to do so, but for the first three episodes of the storyline, there are no indications of any harms or negative side effects. Showing the pills clearly on television (in one scene the pill is even in her mouth) is unnecessary as it does not contribute to the plot in any way, but instead shows them what it is and how to illegally get it.”
We understand where this group is coming from, but we think it is important to explore serious issues like abuse of Adderall on television and in other forms of art and media. This is a real problem that thousands of teenagers and young adults deal with. Not talking about it is not a good enough option.
As far as how Pretty Little Liars has handled the sensitive topic, though they may not have been realistic in their portrayal of the drug’s effects (though, we doubt anyone now believes a film noir-inspired hallucination is one of the common consequences), they have treated Spencer’s addiction as a self-destructive behavior that has not only negatively impacted Spencer’s state-of-mind, but her relationships with those she is closest to. Television and narratives in general garner a significant amount of their power on the emotional level. Watching Spencer betray the trust of her loved ones is perhaps even more affecting than any of the physical effects she has or may have suffered from abusing “study drugs.”
The Canadian regulatory agency has given M3TV, the Canadian channel that broadcasts Pretty Little Liars, until March 21 to respond to the allegations.
Do you think PLL has been irresponsible with its depiction of Spencer’s drug habit? Sound off in the comments below!Catch the next episode of Pretty Little Liars on Tuesday, March 11 at 8 p.m. ET.