Psychological Disorders in the FLIGHT by Denzel Washington

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As a result of alcoholism, Captain William “Whip” Whitaker is dealing with psychiatric disorders. The first major psychological problem suffered by Whip is substance abuse. Whips shows a variety of symptoms in light of the DSM guidelines for this psychiatric condition. Next, he frequently consumes alcohol, leaving him unable to meet his main duties at work as well as at home (Hasin et al. 834). Due to the effects of alcohol, Mr. Whips partially caused the plane crash. Also, he recurrently takes alcohol in situations in which it is physically hazardous (Grant et al. 756). For example, he flies the plane while drunk a factor that partly cause the plane to crash. Third, Whips continue to take alcohol despite facing persistent social problems caused by alcohol addiction. Lastly, he encounters alcohol-related legal problems.

The second psychological disorder Whip suffers is alcohol dependence or addiction. In light of the DSM criteria, the pilot exhibits tolerance and withdrawal as he needs markedly increased amounts of alcohol to become intoxicated and takes alcohol to relieve withdrawal symptoms (Hasin et al. 835). Also, he drinks excessive, spends most of his time in activities that lead him to obtain and use alcohol, and continues to take alcohol despite knowing that addiction costs him persistent problem with his wife and son.

The last psychiatric condition the pilot suffers is opioid use disorder. Opioid use disorder is specified in this case instead of substance use disorder because Whip abuses cocaine and marijuana which are opioids. Whip satisfies the DSM criteria for opioid use disorder because he takes these two drugs in large amounts and for longer than intended and attempts to quit them but fails to do it (Grant et al. 758). Also, he craves for cocaine and continues to use the substances in not only physically hazardous situations, but when the opioids fail he to carry out major obligations at home and work.

Zameickis portrays Whip as an alcoholic living on the edge of life disregarding the negative consequences of his drug and alcohol abuse on his job and family life. The beginning scene opens alcohol, drugs, and sex which depict the protagonist’s addictive lifestyle. The 7:14 a.m. alarm coincides with a song titled “Alcohol.” The lyric “…there’s a place where I can choose to walk the fine line between self-control and self-abuse” clearly paints Captain Whitaker’s maladaptive pattern of alcohol use that has caused him clinically significant impairment and distress.

Her wife wakes him up with a phone call only to find him still not only drunk from alcohol, but high on cocaine as well. In the call, the captain refuses to take responsibility for his son and abruptly end the call after becoming offensive when his former wife brings out his pathological lies. This scene shows that recurrent alcohol and cocaine use has made Captain Whitaker unable to fulfil major role obligations as a father and husband at home.

In the another scene, Captain Whips snorts a line of cocaine to wake up in his Orlando hotel room and fixes his mouth with a freshener to rid the smell of alcohol as he stumbles up the stairs to fly the plane. Whips fails to consciously show regard for his impairment and confidently greets his co-pilot and orders him to turn off the autopilot because he is “going to fly the play today.” After successfully taking the plane out of the stormy weather, Captain Whips further laces his orange juice with vodka, takes a nap and proceeds to fly the plane which takes-off turbulently. He is clearly not functional to fly the plane. His son and employer call him an “addict” while his lawyer describes him as “a drunk, arrogant, scumbag.” This scene indicates that Captain Whitaker recurrently uses alcohol and drugs in physically hazardous situations and in larger amounts than intended. His impairment partly explains his failure to control the plane, forcing him to make a crash landing that claims several passengers. It is clearly that the alcohol and drugs impaired his judgment of the fatal consequences his addictive actions might cause.

Reality slaps him as when his lawyer presents him with a report indicating he was intoxicated at the time of the flight. Reality overwhelms him as he faces the outcomes of his careless actions, and decides to embrace his old days by seeking the comfort of alcohol and Nicole whom he had met at the hospital. Just like Captain Whips, the female companion is struggling with addiction, and the two moves into isolation together. Although Nicole acknowledges her addiction and wants rehabilitation, Whips denies his situation and claims that he loves alcohol by choice, making the two to part ways. His association with Nicole shows that he spends a lot of his time in activities that ease access to alcohol and drugs. After staying nine days sober at Charlie Anderson’s place, Whips reverts to alcoholism again and even snorts several lines of cocaine to get alert for his federal hearing. This scene shows Captain Whitaker’s persistent desire and unsuccessful efforts to quit drugs and alcohol.

Despite a few individuals who portray negative reactions towards Captain Whitaker. First, Whip’s wife, son, Nicole, and employer see him as an addict whose alcoholic lifestyle has ruined his career and social or family life. Nicole decides to part ways with Whips after making several unsuccessful attempts to stay sober. Also, his son calls him an addict and when he visits him at the prison he opens their conversation by asking his father “Who are you?”

However, the majority of other characters in the drama regard him as a hero. In fact, most of his closest friends either denial Captain Whitaker’s addiction or try to cover for him. His heroic landing of the plane fully intoxicated and high on cocaine influence other characters to treat him like a hero rather than an addict. For example, his lawyer, Hugh Lang who once described him as “a drunk, arrogant, scumbag” changes his perception of the captain after the knowledge that Whips managed to land the plane with almost no casualties and even feels he is in awe of him.

Additionally, Hugh helps Charlie to revive the captain with cocaine to stay sober during the federal hearing. At the hearing, Whips is hailed as a hero for his heroic landing of the plane. Besides that, Whitaker’s test is excluded for technical reasons. All these show that these characters loved the captain and thus are often tempted to cover up for his high functioning alcoholism. Therefore, his alcoholism does not appear to be a big issue in most of the other characters around him.

Nonetheless, alcohol and drug addiction and dependence are displayed in a manner that their negative consequences seem unclear to both the victim and other characters around him. Whips has suffered separation from his wife and son. It can be argued that he feels lost and is takes comfort in taking alcohol and cocaine to escape from that sadness. In light of DSM criteria, consumption of alcohol and cocaine has led to significant and recurrent adverse consequences, such as divorce, separation from friends, and even crashing the plane (Hasin et al. 838). Also, repeated abuse of alcohol and drugs has caused Captain Whitaker to fail to fulfill major work and family obligations like fulfilling responsibilities of his wife and son and flying the plane safely.

Furthermore, he faces drinking-related legal problems like being arrested for flying while intoxicated. Captain Whips also experiences relationship problems, for example with his family and Nicole, due to his drinking. Also, the captain is portrayed as somebody who is unable to stop drinking. He has an intense desire to take more alcohol and cocaine in order to achieve the same “high” and that’s why he drinks in the plane.

Works Cited

Grant, B. F., Goldstein, R. B., Saha, T. D., Chou, S. P., Jung, J., Zhang, H., … & Hasin, D. S. (2015). Epidemiology of DSM-5 alcohol use disorder: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III. JAMA psychiatry, 72(8), 757-766.

Hasin, D. S., O’Brien, C. P., Auriacombe, M., Borges, G., Bucholz, K., Budney, A., … & Schuckit, M. (2013). DSM-5 criteria for substance use disorders: recommendations and rationale. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(8), 834-851.

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