August 22, 2007

Addicted to Rock & Roll

What's up with rock stars, actors, and celebrities being addicted to drugs and alcohol? Why does it seems that such a high percentage of 'stars' have chemical addiction problems? Here's a look at a few potential causes and some thoughts on each.

Money - It's well accepted that athletes, movie stars and musicians are all fairly wealthy. Feeding a drug habit takes a substantial amount of cash that most people can't afford- at least not without this spending controlling the rest of our lives. Wealthy stars can afford even the most expensive of drug habits. While less wealthy addicts need to steal, beg or otherwise spend their days feeding their habit. This cause is probably a contributing factor to many celebrities' habits, but taken by itself would imply that anyone with the enough extra cash would have a drug habit.

Opportunity - Being a 'star' provides many new opportunities that ordinary folk never have. Exclusive clubs, exotic vacations, and privledged access to people, places, and services that most people could only dream of. These opportunities give stars the chance to purchase and use drugs in a nearly consequence-free environment. Stars are less likely to be caught and can obtain the finest in court counsel when dealing with the legal ramifications of their actions. They are also in contact with dealers or other users that could provide them with drugs. If I were to decide to start using hard drugs, I wouldn't even know where to start or even who to ask.

The "Creative Mind" - There has long been an association between drug usage and creativity. Whether addictive substances do truly contribute to the creative process is a question for someone more experienced than I, but there has historically been a connection. Stars are frequently artists in one form or another and depend on creativity to do their work. Musicians, actors, writers, and artists may feel the need to dip into some artificial creativity when they need a new idea.

The "Stress of the Spotlight" - PR representatives, agents and other media spinsters suggest this cause frequently in an attempt to lure the public into sympathizing for -not criticizing against- the chemically troubled star. The idea is that the pressure of being in the media spotlight and the high-stress nature of their jobs drives them to turn to drugs to cope. I don't buy this argument. Sure, there can be a lot of pressure from the paparazzi constantly snapping photos of you as you walk the beach or drive your car, but would this not be offset by the benefits of stardom? The tradeoff between being followed by photographers and having and doing everything you've ever dreamed of is surely weighted toward the benefit side. Furthermore, there must be many jobs that are more stressful than acting, singing or sports. How many brain surgeons, air traffic controllers or CEO's are caught up in drug habits?

Lack of Education - One commonality between many drug addicted stars is the lack of a formal education. Schooling provides more than book knowledge. It teaches discipline, self-control, time management, and even drug resistance. Many stars skipped higher education altogether, and others started their celebrity careers much younger, and therefore were not exposed to formal schooling.

Everybody's Doing It - It's worth considering that perhaps the number of chemically troubled stars isn't particularly high. It's just that because they're in the spotlight, their problems are brought to the public conciousness. If one in ten celebrities have drug related problems, maybe one in ten Americans do too. We just focus on the famous cases- not the crack addict down the street. When you consider how many celebrities you can think of that have drug problems, how does that compare relatively to the amount of celebrities that you can think of at all? This comparison could also be done with drug addicts you know compared to everyone you know, but there's other problems with that analogy. (Mostly because drug addicts befriend other drug addicts, and non-users befriend non-users.)

Publicity - This theory is perhaps the most cynical of all. Stars may induce drug problems (or over-hype them) in a concious effort to garner media attention. With the amount of focus paid by tabloid television shows and grocery check-out magazines, a shortcut to the public spotlight might go through the bottle or pipe. I'd like to think that even the dimmest of stars would have enough sense not to sacrifice their health to appear on the cover of National Enquirer, but I don't put it past them.

Personality - This idea is similar to the "Creative Mind" theory. Simply put, same personality features (quirks and all) that drive individuals to be charasmatic, popular, and likeable are the same features that drive them to the downward spiral of drinking and drugs. I'm no behavioral psychologist, but we've all experienced some type of effect such as the lower inhibitions and attitude adjustment received from food, drugs or alcohol. Perhaps the two are more intertwined than we believed.

The list of stars with drug problems is far longer than the Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears trio we here most of today.

How many drug afflicted stars can you think of?

Wikipedia -List of Drug Related Deaths
CelebGuru -Top 20 Celebrity Drug Confessions -Death by Drugs Quiz