How ‘BoJack’ Season 5 Humanizes Opioid Addiction

Whether he’s BoJack the horse or BoJack the actor, he’s still a BoJack suffering from addiction.

Adryan Corcione
The Dot and Line
5 min readSep 19, 2018


While it’s uncertain if the doctor overprescribed opioids to BoJack or not, we still see how quickly someone can get hooked on painkillers.

Welcome to What Horse Is He Right Now Dot Com, a collection of stories by The Dot and Line about BoJack Horseman Season 5. Spoilers for Season 5 follow.

BoJack Horseman has never been afraid afraid to discuss the nuances of mental health issues, and Season 5 goes even deeper, tackling how someone can get addicted to opioids through emotional dependency.

BoJack’s alcohol dependency is so relevant to his identity as a former ’90s television star that we can all agree he’s “everyone’s favorite alcoholic horse.” While previous seasons have included some type of drug trip, the latest season introduces a new substance: painkillers. And it’s not a coincidence this new drug is introduced in the same season that his mother passes away.

In Episode 5, a stunt goes wrong. BoJack severely injures his back so badly that he’s hospitalized. When Princess Carolyn calls to check in, BoJack replies stoned out of his mind, “Oh, it’s your fault that I feel amazing? I don’t know what that doctor gave me, but man, you should leave town more often! Hey, quick question, is this a train?”

This scene might seem like a rather ordinary, even lighthearted, portrayal of a back injury, but it represents a larger epidemic: the overprescribing of opioids by medical professionals. Initially, a painkiller seems like an ideal medication to prescribe someone with a severe back injury, but as the season continues, we learn that BoJack quickly develops a dependency on these pills by Episode 6, when BoJack pops a handful of pills into his mouth shortly after giving his mother’s eulogy.

In Episode 9, Hollyhock visits BoJack, where she’s faced to enter a traumatic environment — the living room where Beatrice drugged her — and Hollyhock’s trauma is triggered the moment the door opens, but BoJack assures her, “My mom is dead, so nobody is going to drug you with secret pills.”

BoJack, similar to his alcoholic tendencies, is painfully self-aware of how addictive opioids can become. Yet when his legal supply runs out, he isn’t afraid to seek out an illegal alternative. Accompanied by Hollyhock, BoJack seeks out a street dealer for illicit pharmaceuticals.

While it’s uncertain if the doctor overprescribed opioids to BoJack or not, we still see how quickly someone can get hooked on painkillers. This illustrates the unfortunate reality of the opioid crisis; someone gets prescribed opioids legally, but when the last bottle is empty, they’re dependent enough to seek out the black market (and, in some cases, turn to strong drugs like heroin and fentanyl).

During this street crusade, BoJack lifts Hollyhock over a fence to flee the cops from the street dealer getting busted. It’s obvious his back doesn’t hurt anymore, so Hollyhock questions if he “really needs these pills.”

“I am in pain all the time, my whole life, and you have no idea,” BoJack exclaims. “So I’m sorry you had one bad experience with my mom, but I have been in pain my whole life.”

At this moment, BoJack reveals his pill dependency isn’t about his back anymore. The opioids help him manage emotional pain, the very pain he has been forced to process with his mother’s recent death. He even admits to Hollyhock that he doesn’t “100 percent” need the pills, but promises her he won’t take the pills until he gets (physically) hurt again. Which comes just moments later, when he crashes his car during a withdraw episode and causes another injury: a broken arm.

So now, BoJack isn’t only emotionally dependent, but physically, as revealed from the withdraw behind the wheel. And despite his new spiraling addiction, it’s still perfectly legal for him to receive another round of painkillers since he’s suffering from another injury.

By Episode 11, he’s still popping pills, even though he’s no longer wearing an arm sling. The drugs cause him to dissociate to a point where he’s not sure if he’s BoJack the horse or BoJack the actor in Philbert. BoJack the horse drums up his own conspiracy theories in his head about his friends who surround him, confusing his identity with Philbert the detective.

“Did you create this entire television show to destroy me?” BoJack asks Tom before he falls into the deepest trip he’s had all season, led by a theatrical musical performance by Gina — the same trip that ends in BoJack nearly strangling her to death. (To be clear, it isn’t the drug that caused BoJack’s outbreak, but the pain he never reconciled, that caused him to resort to drugs to treat it.)

BoJack is then forced to confront his own pain because his pain finally inflicted life-threatening, physical pain onto someone close to him. BoJack the traumatized horse also becomes BoJack the traumatizing horse, just like his mother. By seeing how much emotional pain he put Gina through, BoJack finally begins to understand how much emotional pain he has caused in other people’s lives.

And the only way he knows how to handle it is through checking himself into rehab.

Whether he’s BoJack the horse or BoJack the actor, he’s still a BoJack suffering from addiction. Season 5 successfully humanizes what compels people towards opioids. Whether you’re handed a prescription by a medical professional or a plastic bag by a street dealer, you’re still vulnerable to emotional dependency, especially if you have prior mental health issues and a history of addiction.

But this is not to say that those who suffer from opioid addiction all carry the same trauma as BoJack. Not all of us are wash-up actors who peaked two decades ago. Many of us suffer from the trauma of everyday life — of what it’s like to endure trauma from insecure housing, healthcare, employment, etc. If opioid addiction is enough of a barrier for BoJack the movie star, imagine how it is for the rest of us. But at least BoJack gave us a truthful narrative of the opioid crisis to help us understand those struggling around us, even if it also includes ourselves.

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