Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lindsay Lohan, Cory Monteith, Courtney Love, Whitney Houston, Charlie Sheen, Scott Weiland, and the list goes on. All of these celebrities have histories with substance abuse, and about half of them on the list have passed away. We watch our favorite talented musicians, actors, comedians, athletes, and other celebrities battle through excessive alcohol and drug use and mourn the talent they throw away in the process. We sit by and grieve, judge, and question their choices as fans while they spiral.
For some, recovery is possible and celebrities like Robert Downey Jr. and Drew Barrymore are able to get past their issues with addiction. For others, however, the addiction is too much and they either continue to struggle through it or succumb to it. With so many talented stars in Hollywood falling victim to these substances, it’s interesting to look further into the link between substance abuse and celebrity.
The Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous
The celebrity lifestyle is all about living in excess – money, shopping, sex, restaurants, parties, people, locations, and experiences. Alcohol and drugs are also available in excess in the celebrity lifestyle. They have a nearly unlimited cash flow and can have anything they want at the drop of a hat. The nightlife offers any substance you’d like, and celebrities are rarely ever told “no.” The reasons why addiction affects some and not others are unknown, but they have to do with a combination of biology, surroundings, and family history.
Many stars with addiction issues have said that they would be struggling through substance abuse regardless of their celebrity status. If they had never received their “big break” they still would have fallen victim to addiction. It was already ingrained in their genetics. There’s no way to know for sure, but this can be plausible with biology and family history being major factors in addiction. For others, however, the celebrity lifestyle can be a major catalyst for their addiction. Either way, there’s no denying the role that the celebrity lifestyle has on addiction.
Similar Reactions in the Brain
There is also a connection in what drugs and celebrity careers do for the brain. Performing their chosen medium whether it be music, sports, comedy, or acting has a similar effect on the brain that drugs can have on the brain. The adrenaline rush and the neurotransmitters in the brain causing feelings of euphoria when performing are similar to the neurotransmitters causing good feelings in drug use, so these two sort of go hand in hand in a natural way. Many people in Hollywood are creative types and utilize substances to increase their creativity. Others used them to stay awake, others used to escape, etc. The reasons for each addict’s habit are different, but for those in Hollywood that choose an exciting career path in the limelight, it’s not a long stretch to become addicted to a substance that offers them something similar.
How the Media Views our Addicted Stars
It’s hard to imagine living a life where every move you make, everything you say, and every decision you make is in the limelight. Every mistake, every painful experience, and every poor choice is plastered all over the media. For young stars, especially, public opinion can be an extremely damaging thing emotionally. When a star has addiction issues, the media is right there reporting on their antics. Health issues, rehab, and recovery – all of it is reported on every step of the way. However, it isn’t until their death that the media coverage is explosive and saturates the media. It’s a hard loss for the world when such talented and worshiped individuals leave our world, but when their death is due to substance abuse it’s even more tragic once the world realizes just how this person has affected them. Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, and Amy Winehouse are just a few young celebrities who passed away due to substance abuse and were highly publicized in the media.
Hollywood celebrities tend to be a source of inspiration for their fans based on their talent. Whether they are creating music, portraying characters, playing a sport, making us laugh, or showing us their personality on television; they inspire us in some way. When we realize they are addicts, alcoholics, battling inner demons, or that they’ve lost their battle with a substance, it’s heartbreaking. It’s way too common for talented stars in Hollywood to suffer from substance abuse due to the excessive lifestyle related to celebrity, for the personality of many stars seeking the excitement that both substances and performing offer, and because of the microscope they are put under in the media. It’s important to remember that our stars are vulnerable humans just like we are, and the connection between their celebrity status and addiction exists for a reason.
Featured image via Lady Gaga.