Actors, musicians, and celebrities within the entertainment industry are pop culture icons. Yet, these people have many of the same desires and fears as average individuals. More importantly, entertainers are not impervious to the affects of alcohol and drugs. That may seem obvious. However, the entertainment industry has a history of glamorizing drug use and perpetuating the illusion that celebrities are somehow better equipped to deal with drug use and substance abuse.
Entertainment, sports and media workers have high-stress jobs, and many people turn to drugs as a coping mechanism for the day to day rigors of their occupation. The fame, wealth and demanding schedules compel people within the industry to indulge in cocaine, marijuana, opiates and other substances at high rates. Not only are entertainers using drugs at a high rate, but also the industry professionals behind the scenes as well. The directors, executives and producers are hardly immune from the allure of drug use. Their jobs are just as demanding as their onscreen counterparts. Contrary to popular belief, the entertainment industry does not have the highest rate of illegal drug use among professional occupations in America. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHA)ranked the entertainment industry as third among careers with the highest drug use. Yet that study didn’t include legal drugs such as prescription pills and other over-the-counter highs like synthetic marijuana.
Some people might argue that entertainers don’t glamorize drug use, but instead they are victims of drug use. That’s certainly true. There is a long list of entertainers who have succumbed to addiction. Whitney Houston, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Winehouse are just a few of the most recent entertainers to die from drug or alcohol related abuse. Artists are given every opportunity to fall into dangerous lifestyle choices, but are given very few avenues of support and treatment. The problem is not solely with the artists and entertainers themselves. You have to look at what the industry produces. The music, movies, and television programs that generate profit for the entertainers should not encourage or promote risky lifestyle choices, especially given the fact that entertainers are largely viewed as role models for young adults and teens.
The decision makers in the entertainment industry have a responsibility to ensure that the content that is being offered to the public does not glamorize drug use. Yet you hear it in the music and you see it on the screen because of the profit that comes from drug related music and films. Rappers and rock stars unwittingly are used by the industry to promote the type of lifestyle that popularizes drug use. Images of people casually binging on alcohol or recreational drugs in movies desensitizes people to the dangers of these behaviors. Adults are better equipped to distinguish between fantasy and reality, but young people might not be.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 17.7 million people in America are in the grips of drug or alcohol addiction. It’s a dark part of society’s character, but it should be brought to light. The entertainers and celebrities who use their platform to raise awareness about drug abuse should be commended, and the producers of content that glamorizes drug use should be held accountable for their influence of young people’s lives. Does the entertainment industry really glamorize this problem? That’s a complicated question without a concrete answer. Yet every day 105 people die of overdose in the United States. That’s a statistic that can’t be ignored.