In our current American culture, fame and drugs are universally tied together in most of our minds, leaving behind a subliminal effect on us all. It has become common knowledge that famous people abuse and are addicted to all sorts of drugs. In fact, this is so prevalent that when we learn about a celebrity who is clean—doesn’t drink or do drugs—many of us are sometimes caught by surprise. Simply looking up sober celebrities brings one to pages like this or this.
But why are we caught by surprise when we learn of a famous person or celebrity who didn’t give into fame and drugs, when if we look to those around us, many, many people abstain from ever doing drugs anyway? Why are we so surprised when famous people do it?
Why lie; it’s because Hollywood is riddled with cases upon cases upon cases of fame and drugs and sex and more drugs. It has become the stuff of pop culture, and when someone in their midst doesn’t succumb to our preconceived narrative, we’re surprised.
So why is it that fame and drugs seem to be correlated with stardom and success? This will probably be better explained if we define what fame actually is.
What is fame?
To get a clear-cut definition of what fame is—although it’s a fairly ambiguous word itself—we’ll look into the definition produced by Merriam-Webster: the condition of being known or recognized by many people.
This simple definition of fame is actually also useful to explain why fame and drugs are so prevalently linked to each other.
Many of us might assume we would crave and love to be in the limelight for fame, to the point where wherever we go, hoards of people would recognize us—and hopefully—we’d be internationally loved. What might sometimes be missed from this presumption of fame is the utter destruction of privacy and everything it entails. Maybe going to public places would be exciting from all the attention initially received, but it should be fairly easy to see how quick that would get exhausting and overwhelming.
Being in the public spotlight for everything you do would require you to be at your best and always presentable, or as some say, “put on your Sunday best.” One day away from that image that they probably worked so hard to maintain, and within minutes, their faces will be plastered on television screens around the world as critics and the population judges and criticizes them. Everything you do, from walking your dog to picking up your child from school, will require you to be aware and presentable at all times.
This is where fame and drugs meet each other, between stress, popularity, and paranoia.
How fame and drugs are related
Many famous people and celebrities undoubtedly suffer from a state of paranoia—which might not seem like it at first, but given time, it will inevitably result to that.
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate and author of Thinking Fast and Slow, explains that when someone is under the constant pressure of being watched and judged—such as reality television stars, for example—while they might be on their best behavior, many times they will show a side of themselves that is what their natural polar opposite would be. He calls this action “ego depletion.”
Research into this phenomenon also has shown a large correlation to drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Due to the constant stress of living life in the limelight, Kahneman argues, it’s no wonder many famous people and celebrities do things so outrageous—which are the main parts aired by the film crew—that many people who know them would never believe that of the person. One of the first actions those under this amount of pressure do is abuse plenty of different drugs to self-medicate.
Fame and drugs are therefore synced at the hip if popular economics and psychology are to be believed. At the heart of this phenomenon is stress. The stress that fame places on these people that eventually drives them to abuse or become addicted to drugs and alcohol is not only seen in adults, but also children.
Children who are superstars by the time they hit their late teenage years have an extremely high probability of suffering from addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. In several different studies, it was found that nearly 60 percent of child stars have been arrested, and more than half of those had a substance abuse or addiction problem.
These child stars are not more prone to drugs and alcohol because of them being around it—even though it surely is a contributing factor. It’s because of the stress placed on them by parents and guardians, who pressure them into that spot in the first place. Regular children born into low-income areas are actually far more exposed to drugs and alcohol, yet have unfathomably low reported numbers of use relative to child stars, further showing that stress suffered by a child star might be one of the main factors as to why many abuse drugs and alcohol.
Take any highly stressful job and see how the numbers of reported drug or alcohol abuse and addiction rates tend to go up. Sometimes, the drugs used tend to be stimulants as stress levels go up, which is probably why most of those in Hollywood with an addiction, have it in drugs such as meth, cocaine, and prescription ADHD medication.
The sad truth about stardom
While research on this topic is fairly fringe, there is still a lot of work needing to get done on the subject. From child to adult superstars, it seems that fame and drugs are not a pitfall in Hollywood, but rather a symptom of stardom and fame.
It might just be that those very stars we admire from worlds away might just be doing a task too impossible for the regular human to undertake. However, what would that make those doing the same, but not abusing drugs or alcohol? What about those whose fame and drugs aren’t a factor? Perhaps they can be called uber-stars. They are the best of all of us, the best of Hollywood, and they are proof that sobriety is not easy. Sobriety is reserved for the resilient and strong in the world’s most stressful situations.
If you or a loved is suffering from drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, getting help immediately is essential to avoid long-term damage and reach sobriety like those very uber-stars.
At Recovery Hub, our addiction professionals are available at all hours of the day and ready to assist you with whatever questions you may have. We are in contact with thousands of addiction and clinical professionals around the country and can connect you directly to them. Click or call us today at 1-888-220-4352.