Whitney Houston, Cory Monteith, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, River Pheonix, Chris Farley, Janis Joplin, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday; that doesn’t even make a dent in the list of celebrities we tragically lost all too soon to drug and alcohol addiction. And then there are those celebrities who are still here with us and who have struggled or are currently struggling with addiction: Robert Downey Jr, Lindsay Lohan, Matthew Perry, Kristen Stewart, Drew Barrymore; again, the list could go on and on.
So, are celebrities more prone to addiction than non-celebrities?
It might seem as though celebrities are more prone to addiction by the sheer number of famous people whose struggles with drugs and alcohol have come to light in the very public domain of stardom. But is there something about being a celebrity that makes someone more likely to turn into an addict? I think there are several things to consider when answering the question of whether celebrities are more prone to addiction.
People, Places, Things
As many of us in recovery know, we must be wary of people, places, and things. I think Hollywood and the other haunts of the rich and famous are perfect cesspools for drug use. By being around people who use, in the places they use, and around things associated with using, the non-addicted celebrity is exposed, perhaps for the first time in their life, to the glamorous-yet-seedy lifestyle of fame, fortune, and drugs. This might sound strange but, it’s kind of like prison: when a non-violent offender, say someone charged with possession of a controlled substance – which carries a hefty penalty – is thrown in the jail or prison system with violent and hardened criminals, many times, the newbie becomes indoctrinated with a new sense (or lack thereof) of morality – the prison code. So, this relatively harmless offender comes out of the system as a much more dangerous threat to society, having learned the “tools of the trade” to lead a criminal lifestyle. This is all too often the case. Again, perhaps a strange analogy but, quite fitting in my opinion. In the case of celebrities, you have this wide-eyed kid who’s new on the scene and hoping for their big break at stardom. They are all-too willing to please and partake in activities if it’s with the “right” people – the big-shots or those who are closely connected to the big shots.
With big paychecks comes the ability to support big habits. That’s just common sense. But feeding a drug habit is a very expensive undertaking and even some of the highest paid celebrities can become bankrupt in the face of a nasty drug habit. When in my active addiction, there were so many times I’d think to myself or tell my “using buddies” that I wished I was famous but not for the fame; for the money. My biggest dream at that time was somehow having tons of money, so much that I wouldn’t know what to do with it. Well, I knew and it wasn’t anything good – I would indulge my addicted ways with a steady supply of drugs until my own untimely death from an overdose. That’s actually how I planned it. Sick, yes. But not all that uncommon among junkies.
Fame and Fortune Cause Addiction: The Bottom Line
Could these things actually be the cause of addiction? In reality, I don’t think so. They definitely help to feed an addiction in someone who may already be predisposed to substance abuse but, I don’t think being a celebrity, alone, can cause addiction. Science has found actual genetic evidence of brain differences in people with addiction – and not just while they are actively using. There is some pretty compelling evidence from studies of identical twins that shows that addiction may very well be hereditary. Further bolstering these finds are the results of many studies, which show that the majority of people who have tried hard drugs did not then become addicted to using them. Also, consider all of the folks who are able to drink responsibly and then there are true alcoholics, who can’t simply stop after one or two drinks. This alone goes to show that addiction doesn’t have really all that much to do with the substance, itself, rather the individual.
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