The topic of addiction hits headlines when a celebrity suffers a relapse or tragically overdoses, fame does not keep people safe from drug use. People then flock to social media to share their personal opinions and comments on the latest incident. It usually is a mix of sympathy and judgement, but regardless of the reaction- a conversation is started and tends to carry on for some time. Demi Lovato’s recent relapse and Mac Miller’s overdose last month were huge topics of conversation that news outlets continue to cover to this day. As tragic as these events were, it can be frustrating for the recovery community to see certain individuals in the spotlight garner so much attention for their struggles with substance abuse, while there is a massive population of everyday people fighting the very same battle with little recognition. So why is it that people only start talking about addiction when famous people are affected, when, in reality, it is an on-going issue that affects millions all over the world?
Well, this is a tricky question to answer. The answer partially stems from the glorification of famous people and celebrities. There is this notion that because these individuals have accumulated millions of dollars, luxury possessions, and seemingly “ideal” lifestyles- they have made something of themselves that the average person has not; and that they are superior in some sense. So when it comes out that they may have an issue with substance use, it is shocking. How could someone with so much money and fame “throw their life away” with drugs and alcohol, or even give in to the temptation of experimenting with certain drugs? Some people just can’t wrap their minds around it, so they obsess, and try to find out as much information as they can about the celebrity’s drug use, as if they can determine “how it all went wrong”. Some people express sympathy for the pain a celebrity might be enduring from whatever new low their addiction brought them to. Other people pass judgement on the celebrity for their “poor lifestyle choices” and are disgusted that their substance abuse even made it to the headlines.
Whatever the response, the conversation about addiction is started. There is no denying celebrity overdoses or rehab visits get people talking about what is an on-going, everyday issue that is substance abuse and drug use. Is this good or bad? It depends on how you look at it. You could say “well at least addiction is a topic of conversation now, regardless of how it became one” or you could be on the defensive, arguing that celebrity battles with addiction are not accurate representations of the battles with substance use millions of people are fighting everyday. At the heart of it, addiction is a disease that does not discriminate against any sex, religion, socioeconomic status, age, etc. Addiction manifests similarly in all individuals and addicts are all one and the same. The real harm is the misinformation about addiction being spread on social media and in everyday conversation. It demonstrates the misconceptions a large portion of the population has about this debilitating disease affecting millions.
As disheartening and aggravating as it may be to see a comment on Facebook claiming “addiction is a choice” or to overhear in a coffeeshop someone asserting Mac Miller caused his own death, it’s important to remember we have the ability to change the stigma of addiction. The louder the recovery community is about their accomplishments and the reality of addiction, the more accurate information can be available to the public. Addicts in recovery should take pride in overcoming their battles and can use their stories to educate and inspire others. The conversation doesn’t have to start only when it is revealed someone famous suffers from the disease- it can and should be an ongoing conversation fueled by recovering addicts advocating for the millions of people fighting this deadly disease behind closed doors, receiving little to no recognition.
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