Movies and Psychology: "Side effects"


How Accurate is the Portrayal of Drugs in this Movie?

       Let us be honest, the main protagonist is not Rooney Mara as Emily Taylor or Jude Law as Dr. Jonathan Banks. It's pharmaceutical drugs. They are constantly affecting directly and indirectly the lives of every character in the movie. If we take this into consideration an important question arises. Are drugs portrayed accurately in this film?

Could medication be dangerous?

       Something in the movie that I found really interesting and that I covered before in this post: ( A comparison between Psychoanalytic therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Psychopharmacology) is that "The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did a review in 2004 of clinical trials and found that four percent of children and adolescents that took antidepressants thought about or attempted suicide ("Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)"). Two percent of the people who took a placebo attempted suicide. This means that taking an antidepressant doubles your risk of committing suicide. As a result, the FDA put a black box warning the following year in order to alert the consumer and the parents of consumers the increased risk of suicides ("Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)"). Another common side effect of medication is the worsening of depression. This combined with the danger of suicidal thinking shows that antidepressants increase the risks of what is trying to cure." Yes, I know what you are thinking, ( I really don't) It's ironic that anti-depressants worsen depression and increase the probability rate of suicide. Well, this was presented in the movie accurately.

Can people sleepwalk because of their medication?

       The next question is can medication cause people to sleepwalk? The answer is that it can be a possible side effect. Seeman (2011) found that anti-psychotic medication could induce sleepwalking episodes. Lange (2005) found that a combination of drugs (zolpidem and venlafaxine) appeared to cause a somnambulism episode. Ferentinos & Paparrigopoulos (try saying that five times fast) found in 2009 that Zopicone could create sleep waking behavior. And finally, Pressman (2011) found that there as a relationship between Z-drugs and sleep driving. This is another aspect of the movie that it gets right.

Do Doctors receive money for promoting a certain type of medication?

       BBC news used Global Data as a source to explain that the pharmacology industry spends more in marketing than in research and development of their drugs (Richard Anderson, 2014). For example, Johnson & Johnson (US) spent $17.5 billion in marketing and $8.2 billion in research. Norvatis (Swiss) spent $14.6 billion in marketing and $9.9 in research. The money spent in marketing is not limited to ads, but they can buy meals for doctors and pay a great sum of money to doctors for giving favorable talks about their drugs. If you want to see more about this topic I recommend "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Marketing to Doctors"  
Informative yet witty. This leads us to the final and more interesting question.

Can you commit a homicide while sleepwalking?

       The oldest case I found where a person used sleepwalking as defense is Massachusetts v. Tirrell. Tirrell was accused of murdering a woman by slicing her throat and setting fire to the building. He was married and she was his mistress. In the end, the defense was successful. The oldest one was California v. Reitz. He also killed his lover. Reitz "smashed her head with a flowerpot, leaving shards in her scalp, dislocated her arm, punctured her with a plastic fork, fractured her wrist, ribs, jaw, facial bones, and skull, and, wielding a pocket knife, left three gaping stab wounds on the back of her neck" (talk about overkill) (Lyon, 2009). It's hard to prove causation (that you can kill someone while sleepwalking), but at least we know that a jury may find said person innocent. 

 Do you think it is possible?

Feel free to leave a comment, questions, concerns, or suggestions.


Ferentinos, P., & Paparrigopoulos, T. (2009). Zopiclone and sleepwalking. International Journal Of Neuropsychopharmacology, 12(1), 141-142. doi:10.1017/S1461145708009541

K. A. (n.d.). The Case of the Sleepwalking Killer. Retrieved February 21, 2016, from

L. L. (n.d.). 7 Criminal Cases That Invoked the 'Sleepwalking Defense' Retrieved from

Lange, C. L. (2005). Medication-Associated Somnambulism. Journal Of The American Academy Of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(3), 211-212. doi:10.1097/01.chi.0000150618.67559.48

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from

Pressman, M. R. (2011). Sleep driving: Sleepwalking variant or misuse of z-drugs?. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 15(5), 285-292. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2010.12.004

R. A. (n.d.). Pharmaceutical industry gets high on fat profits - BBC News. Retrieved February 21, 2016, from

Seeman, M. V. (2011). Sleepwalking, a possible side effect of antipsychotic medication. Psychiatric Quarterly, 82(1), 59-67. doi:10.1007/s11126-010-9149-8