We are going to take a two-pronged approach to this question.
We believe that celebrities suffer from an over-exposure to both drugs and alcohol. The environment in which celebs exist is simply loaded with drugs and booze, as well as people eager to provide them to the celebs, often for free - at least at first.
The other aspect of the substance abuse problem is slightly more subtle, but just as real; celebs are usually very unique and talented people (obviously we don’t mean fakes like Paris Hilton). They can be people for whom the “high” of fame is critically important, people who are used to the cheers of thousands. Whether they are athletes or actors, singers or comedians, these talented people get lots of attention and adoration, which is an unbelievable “high.” But then the show ends, the game is over, the concert concludes and the star is alone, or maybe with a couple of friends, and the high of the performance fades. What to do? This is where the two components come together perfectly to create a dangerous and toxic mix.
The drugs and booze are there being pushed on the celebrity, and on the celeb has a gaping hole to fill. All of a sudden, drinks and drugs start to do their evil dance together, and the star begins to find out that there is another path to feeling great that does not depend on the cheers of thousands.“Have a line Jimmy, have a drink Mary, that was a great show, a great race, a great game, a great concert – you deserve this!”
Once the celeb starts using psychoactive drugs or alcohol to feel better – to get that “high,” - then the typical cycle of addiction begins. After the celebrity gets started on the path to drug and/or alcohol addiction, they are even worse off than regular people for one simple reason – they have more money! This means that they can always get their drug of choice, and plenty of it – as well as take lots of time off work once they get deeply into the addiction cycle.
When typical citizen Joe Blow finds cocaine, for example, he doesn’t realize that those first few lines can lead to a habit that will eat up all of his money in no time, and that even when he stops paying all of his other bills, his salary will still not be enough to supply him with as much cocaine as he needs. And that’s assuming he will be sober enough for long enough to keep his job. When the money runs out and the jobs get lost, the typical plebeian addict turns to begging, borrowing, and stealing to feed their habit. The celebrity, on the other hand, probably has royalties and investments that can keep them stoned and well supplied past the point where the average user is either in jail or rehab!
The list of celebrities who have suffered from substance abuse problems is long and distinguished. Sometimes celebs beat the addictions, sometimes they lose their careers and ruin their lives, and some even lose their lives.
I remember watching a show on the making of Happy Days, where Gary Marshall, the creator and producer, explained that his stars survived their youthful celebrity status largely because he kept them together like a family. They participated in activities off the set, like forming a softball team, going to shows and restaurants, vacationing together at places like Disneyland, etc., in order to help them deal with their stardom and to stay off drugs. Amazingly, if you go through the list of Happy Days stars, you will be hard pressed to find any that succumbed to the typical drug hazards so common in those (and these) days.
Did Gary have the key to solving the problem? Is the answer to avoiding addiction for a star to be part of a loving, active group of supportive people with whom one spends lots of quality time, and in return receives lots of love and attention? Sounds reasonable, at least for young, easily influenced stars. If we accept the premises above – that stars are over-exposed to drugs and alcohol, and that because of the huge attention they are used to receiving as stars, they need to experience feelings of gratification and acceptance even when not performing – then the idea of establishing a supportive group like Gary Marshall did makes lots of sense.
Maybe stars should join AA and start attending meetings even before they develop the addictions!!
Article first published as Why Celebs are Prone to Substance Abuse on Technorati.