The 8 Greatest TV Characters Who Struggle With Addiction

Addiction isn't easy to portray without going over the top. These TV characters are the best when it comes to small-screen addicts.

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Addiction is a tough battle that thousands of people struggle with every day. Although it's certainly not the defining trait of the following TV characters, it does play a big part in their chaotic and/or violent behavior.

Here are some of the best TV series with junkie characters we'll never forget for stirring up all kinds of antics and emotion!

8. Christopher Moltisanti (The Sopranos)

David Chase's multi award-winning crime show The Sopranos would be nothing without Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli).

Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is at the center of the Italian-American mob, surrounded by tons of different people—and one of them is Christopher, referred to as Tony's "nephew" but is actually his cousin.

Christopher is Tony's protégé, who sees Tony as a father figure after his own father dies. Despite his impulsive nature, Christopher is trusted with top secret mafia tasks. But as loyal as he is by nature, his major addictions jeopardize his position of trust.

He might dip in and out of AA meetings, but Christopher's heroin habit makes him a prime target for turning state evidence. Running a criminal organization is hard enough without a high, car-crashing nephew. What will Tony do about it?

Related: The Best Sopranos Characters, Ranked (And Why We Love Them)

7. Beth Harmon (The Queen's Gambit)

Perfect hair and fancy eyeliner aside, Anya Taylor-Joy impeccably portrayed a young, alcoholic genius. The "Queen's Gambit" refers to a chess opening, which Beth Harmon is a master of. But not only does Beth become a chess prodigy at eight years old, she also becomes a drug addict.

The orphanage in which Beth grows up dispenses daily tranquilizers, and she quickly gets hooked on them, watching hallucinatory chess pieces move across the ceiling as she plays games in her mind.

Rising through the ranks of chess notoriety, Beth lands in Moscow to play against chess world champions. But the more money she wins, the more pills and booze she can afford—yet even so, Beth remains calm and hardened on the surface, for which Taylor-Joy won a Golden Globe.

Related: The Best Netflix Original Series You Might Have Overlooked

6. Elliot Alderson (Mr. Robot)

Studies have shown that higher IQs often lead to higher risks of developing depression and/or mental illnesses. And what's a quick—albeit brief and detrimental—escape route from all that? Drugs!

In Mr. Robot, Elliot Alderson is gifted but miserable. A cybersecurity engineer-turn-vigilante, Elliot manages to hack the entire world by targeting E Corp—the largest conglomerate in the world—and canceling all debt records under the "fsociety" movement.

Like most hackers, Elliot lives a lonely life in the shadows, hunched over his desk with hood up against the world. But most hackers aren't addicted to morphine. Elliot maintains a controlled level of intake to avoid overdosing, but it doesn't make the withdrawal any less agonizing.

Rami Malek had been acting for a while before leading Mr. Robot, but Sam Esmail's TV thriller is really what put him on the map.

Related: Great Examples of Unreliable Narrators in Movies and TV

5. Klaus (The Umbrella Academy)

Robert Sheehan is an Irish actor who's loved for his eccentric personality that translates easily onto screen. He's best known for his breakthrough role in the E4 British show Misfits, starring as a hilarious, immortal delinquent.

And the energy Sheehan brought to that performance made him a top casting choice for Netflix's Umbrella Academy.

Klaus is androgynous American junkie who's unpredictable, law-breaking, and never serious. Oh, and he has superpowers.

One of seven supernatural siblings, Klaus uses drugs to keep the spirits he sees at bay (understandably), but even when he's sober, he's still a fun-loving hippie who accidently starts a cult...!

4. Arthur Shelby (Peaky Blinders)

Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), head of the Peaky Blinders gang, is partial to whiskey. In fact, the entire family is comprised of borderline alcoholics, as was the lifestyle of a 1920s street gang in Birmingham.

But none of them get as high or as hammered as Arthur. Actor Paul Anderson somehow makes us sympathetic to this murderous psychopath who has a few screws loose. For all his hot-tempered and grisly violence, our hearts still broke when we thought he was dead.

The sixth and final season of Steven Knight's critically acclaimed drama sees Arthur take a turn for the worse. He's always been an unpredictable drunk after his days digging in the war, but since discovering opium, Arthur seems beyond help. Once again, hearts shattered.

Sure, Tommy's dipped his toe in the sea of Midnight Oil before, but only Arthur becomes a full-blown addict who can't stand up straight for his kids. Like most of the show, it's kind of tragic to watch—the oldest brother looked after by the younger.

Related: The Best TV Shows About Gangs and Gangsters, Ranked

3. Frank Gallagher (Shameless)

Frank Gallagher might just be the most famous alcoholic on TV. But he doesn't stop at just alcohol—he'll also take any drug he can get a hold of, mixing cocktails of booze with ecstasy and innumerable powders.

Viewers often debate between the US and UK versions of Shameless, but we're going with William H. Macy's version of Frank for this list. (Mainly because the US remake is a little less of a soap opera.)

Originally played by David John Threlfall in the British version, Frank is a genius-turn-alcoholic who spends most the series passed out on the floor, ranting at the pub, or scheming for benefits.

Frank is a fascinating character who everyone loves to hate, but Shameless would crumble without him. The plotlines are an endless stream of problems, tragedies, and misadventures that can mostly be traced back to Frank as he dips in and out of his kids' lives.

Macy had a huge task in filling Threlfall's boots, but he did it effortlessly. Frank's total lack of anxiety or self-preservation is hilarious, yet also really sad when you think about it.

2. Rue (Euphoria)

Zendaya won two Primetime Emmy Awards for her performance as Rue in HBO's teen drama Euphoria. There was also one particular scene that got a standing ovation for the actress.

In season two, Zendaya's Rue screams at her mother, then runs across main roads to avoid the hospital and slips into a bath of morphine. That scene was shot the same year Zendaya was swinging across buildings as Spider-Man's girlfriend. Talk about range—and from a Disney Channel kid!

Euphoria is a teen drama that's darker than any other, weaving together multiple messy storylines between a bunch of Los Angeles high schoolers. The show tackles themes of mental illness, sexuality, and toxic masculinity with artistic style.

And in the middle of it all is Rue, an opioid addict who'll take anything from fentanyl to marijuana to Xanax.

Related: The Best Characters in HBO's Euphoria

1. Jesse Pinkman (Breaking Bad)

An uptight, middle-aged chemistry teacher and baggy-clothed teenage meth head are an unlikely pair, but they somehow make the greatest character due in modern TV history.

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) is the teenage junkie in Breaking Bad alongside burgeoning drug kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Thanks to his time on the streets, Jesse is able to sling Walter's chemically pure meth and make them rich. If only it were that simple...

One of the most iconic scenes in Breaking Bad—other than the pizza on the roof—is when Jesse starts floating above the bed when he first tries heroin. (Creator Vince Gilligan played around and struck gold with that visual.)

Although Walter White is the prime focus for all Breaking Bad-related analyses and character breakdowns, Jesse Pinkman is our favorite character. Despite all the bad stuff that happens to him, he remains kind—a good soul caught up in the wrong crowd. He deserved much better.

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