As we have all seen throughout the years, many celebrities and big name stars tragically go hand in hand with addiction. In the recent past, Amy Winehouse, Charlie Sheen, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Lindsay Lohan, Robert Downey Jr., and most currently Cory Monteith.
As an addiction therapist, in the past 15 years of treating many different types of chemically-dependent individuals and their families, I have observed significant possible reasons as to why celebs and drug addiction seem to come together so often. Here are a few of the reasons why:
Let us first remember that addiction is a serious, chronic and debilitating illness that is very, very difficult to treat, period. Addiction does not discriminate -- it can affect anyone. It can even affect people that to us seem happy or appear to "have it all." But throw in fame, stardom, wealth, the pressure to perform, the high expectations, and most importantly the public scrutiny that goes along with it, and you can have a lethal combination, a perfect storm that can lead anyone down a treacherous path of destruction and sometimes death. Addiction is also a progressive illness that left unacknowledged only gets worse over time unless measures are taken to address the problem and treat it appropriately.
For celebrities and high-profile individuals, being under the microscope 24/7 and trying to maintain and project an aura of perfection and success can sometimes be too difficult to handle. As a result, some stars turn to drugs and alcohol to cope and to try and manage the overwhelming pressure. Once the connection is made that drugs or alcohol can provide them some temporary relief, they may continue to do it despite knowing the negative consequences.
Remember: Stress + Relief = Repetition.
Another reason is for many people there are severe occupational consequences for using drugs and alcohol in the workplace where individuals are held to a high standard of compliance and accountability. So, people become afraid of losing their jobs, their livelihood and the shame that would accompany that. A little humility and the fear of hitting bottom and "losing everything" can act as a good motivator to take more responsibility for the choices people make and a good instigator to get help and address the problem.
So it might be said that for a celebrity, since there is little or no professional forfeiture or penalty for using drugs, there may be less motivation to get treatment because there is less to lose. Kicking the habit of using drugs is so difficult to achieve that without the intense desire and resolve to get well and the focused attention needed to build a sobriety-centered lifestyle, the chances for success are slim.
Another aspect of the correlation between celebrities and drug addiction is that the same seductive relationship entertainers seem to have with the spotlight and the thrill of being on stage can be very similar to the often tragic, thrill-seeking relationship addicts have with mood-altering substances. It's just a different kind of thrill-seeking, but sadly it's the more destructive one.
The brilliant Dr. Drew Pinsky, who is always on the mark and has a wealth of experience working with celebrity addictions, has often touched on this concept. It appears that people who are pre-wired or genetically predisposed for addiction may indeed be more susceptible to drug dependence because of their passionate drive to be in the "excitable environment" of the stage or screen. So, perhaps the very same reason they seek the high of the spotlight and the euphoria of performing is the very same reason they may develop an addiction to drugs. Apparently, the rush or high of performing and always being in the public eye is not dissimilar to the rush and high of seeking out and using mood-altering drugs.
The sad and tragic death of the young and talented Cory Monteith and many before him is another example of this tragic relationship some celebrities develop with drugs and alcohol.
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Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.