Do Celebrities Create Drug Trends?

Do Celebrities Create Drug Trends?

It’s a provocative question, but as the public’s never-ending quest for gossip and the lurid details of celebrity lives continues to persist, stories of their alcohol-fueled escapades and drug use can make people curious.

In a Time magazine article on Michael Jackson’s use of the powerful anesthetic Propofol, Dr. David Sack of Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu, said, “Whenever a drug gets attention like this in the media, people want to try it. It takes a while for things to break out. Sometimes they never do. But there are always people who abuse drugs who are looking for the next big thing.”

It seems counter intuitive for someone to try a drug that they know only because it killed a celebrity, but drug abusers often believe they will be different: They won’t do it to excess; they’re smarter than that; it won’t kill them. This self-deception creates a mindset that allows drug abusers to continue to try new drugs in riskier and riskier combinations. Combinations of opiates and alcohol that would scare off the average person sound like thrilling opportunities to the drug abuser seeking a better high.

“Cautionary tales do not necessarily break through the barrier of denial,” Dr. Sack says. “Even drug abusers who have had very close calls with death will justify and rationalize continued drug use.”

This sense of personal invulnerability puts drug users at extreme risk of overdose. If they don’t believe it can happen to them, they will take greater and greater risks to achieve the highs they experienced at the beginning of their drug use.

While celebrity substance abuse may signal to others that this behavior is somehow acceptable, their recoveries can also serve as examples. Stories of Robert Downey, Jr.’s drug use and arrests were gossip-page fodder for many years. Most people had written him off as a hopeless addict. His remarkable recovery and second-life as a critically acclaimed actor show that even the seemingly most intractable drug abusers can overcome addiction.

Because the media are more inclined to print mug shots and compelling stories of drunk driving, bizarre behavior, and arrests than they are inspiring stories of recovery and freedom from addiction, stories such as Downey’s are often lost to the noise surrounding the latest celebrity embarrassment. The message needs to be clear that drug addiction is a deadly affair that impacts all strata of society, not something that gives us an opportunity to mock celebrities.

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