Hollywood Celebrities vs. Addiction
01/02/20: AddictionThe life of a Hollywood star is viewed by many with a sense of envy. These people are beloved by society, and seemingly have anything and everything they could ever want: money, fame, popularity, you name it. So if this is the case, why do we see so many celebrities struggling with addiction? It seems like every day there’s a new headline reading “[Celebrity] enters rehab for addiction.” How come people who seemingly “have it all” end up falling into the trap that is addiction? In this article, we will briefly touch on why addiction is so rampant in the glamorous world of Hollywood, and explore some case studies of celebrities who have battled addiction at some point in their lives.
Celebrity AddictionIt is a common misconception that addiction only affects people who are down on their luck, or who have in some way failed morally. In fact, the biggest cause of addiction is unmanaged stress. There is strong evidence connecting chronic stress with the motivation to abuse drugs or alcohol. Stressful experiences during childhood such as physical and sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, family dysfunction, etc are strongly associated with an increased risk for addiction. In addition, unhappy marriages, dissatisfaction with employment, harassment, etc are often cited as major catalysts for addiction. Even though it may seem that celebrities live very different lives than the rest of this (and in some ways, they do), they also struggle with a lot of the same stressors that the average person does. Couple that with the fact that they every move they make is exposed to the public eye, and those normal stressors can be blown up into something that causes much more grief than it would for anyone else. In addition, high powered celebrities and influencers often have the ability and funds to acquire copious amounts of harmful substances on a consistent basis. In the fast-paced, high-stress world of fame, alcohol and drugs are commonplace. They are often used to help cope with the extremely busy schedules and seemingly endless socializing and upkeep required for a public figure. Because they are so prevalent, simply being exposed to others who are constantly using can be enough to sway someone who wasn’t otherwise interested. And while a common person living on a meager salary may struggle to feed their addiction, wealthy Hollywood stars have the ability to fund a constant supply of their drug of choice, wherever and whenever they want it.
The “27 Club”The 27 Club was a group of famous celebrities, mostly musicians, who died due to drug overdoses. It is referred to as the 27 Club because they were all extremely young, aged 27 when they passed. Janice Joplin, a rock singer, died of a heroin overdose (compounded by alcohol) in 1970 in Hollywood. Jimi Hendrix, an extremely famous rock guitarist, died in 1970 from an alcohol and barbiturate overdose. He aspirated on his own vomit in his sleep, and though an ambulance was called, he, unfortunately, passed away. Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors, passed away in 1971 from a heroin overdose. Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the alternative rock band Nirvana, committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. A high concentration of heroin and traces of diazepam were found in his system as well.
Demi LovatoDemi Lovato’s struggle with addiction has been highly publicized throughout the years, and she isn’t afraid to talk about what she has gone through. It started when she was bullied in school at a young age, which lead her to turn to drugs and alcohol in an effort to fit in. In 2009, she tried cocaine for the first time at age 17 while working for Disney Channel. At the young age of 18, she entered rehab for an eating disorder and self-harm, among other issues. However, Lovato admits that after leaving rehab, sobriety did not stick: "I wasn't ready to get sober," she admitted in her documentary, Simply Complicated. "I was sneaking [cocaine] on planes, sneaking it in bathrooms, sneaking it throughout the night—nobody knew." It took many years and many relapses, but Lovato celebrated six years of sobriety in March 2018. Unfortunately, in July 2018, she was reported to have experienced an overdose and was rushed to the hospital. Lovato’s story demonstrates just how much of a lifetime struggle staying sober can be, even for someone with the resources and time to dedicate to the best treatment. But it is entirely possible.
Robert Downey Jr.Robert Downey Jr. is one of the best examples of someone who turned their life around and saved their career after a lifelong battle with addiction. Downey Jr. recalls having used drugs even before he was a teenager, and continued to rely on illicit substances throughout the early days of his career. He was arrested many times in the late ’90s and early 2000s for being caught under the influence of alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. He even did time in prison. But his now-wife convinced him to make a change, and Downey Jr. started therapy, entered a 12-step program, started meditating, and even took up the martial art Wing Chun Kung Fu. He’s been clean ever since and has made a name for himself playing Tony Stark/Ironman in the Marvel Movie franchise. He described his journey out of addiction as “like coming out of a 20-year coma”.
Drew BarrymoreDrew Barrymore is an example of someone who struggled with addiction stemming from childhood trauma. Forced into the spotlight at the tender age of six by starring in the movie E.T., a combination of the pressures of fame and neglectful, abusive parenting caused Barrymore to seek treatment for addiction at the by just 13 years old. She cites having been drinking from the age of nine and quickly began using marijuana and cocaine. Now recovered, she has gone on to act in many more television shows and movies, most recently the show Santa Clarita Diet. She also made her directorial debut with the movie Whip It.
Ed SheeranWhen singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran first stepped into the spotlight, he felt he has a good handle on his life and knew the pitfalls that many celebrities fall into after achieving fame. Yet, this did not stop him from succumbing to addiction issues like those who came before him. He says he didn’t even realize what was happening to him until those around him began expressing concern. Luckily, he sobered up quickly and was able to regain control of his life and continue making music.
FergieFormer member of The Black Eyed Peas, Fergie struggled from an addiction to ecstasy and crystal meth for years. She told Oprah “My rock bottom was… well, my brain had been playing a lot of tricks on me. I thought the FBI was after me. You’re kind of living in this alternate reality. It’s very strange. And I started getting very paranoid. So I went one day into this church and I thought the FBI and the SWAT teams were outside of the church. This is what the drug was telling me.” She has since recovered, and cites the freedom from the hallucinations and paranoia to be extremely liberating.
The TakeawayThese are only a handful of the celebrities that have fought addiction in their lives. A positive side to these ultra-famous people speaking out about mental illness and addiction is that it helps to raise awareness for the severity of addiction. By being candid about their struggles, they may inspire others to follow in their path and seek help. And those who took rehab seriously and had a successful recovery are shining examples to all of their fans of how these programs can seriously change lives.
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