Drugs and celebrities have shared a volatile relationship in the west since the early 20th century, there have been over 500 celebrity-deaths caused by drug overdose or drug-related crimes since. Acclaimed Australian Hollywood actor, Heath Ledger, died at an early age of 28 from an overdose of a cocktail of prescription drugs and sleeping pills. World renowned African-American R&B Singer, Whitney Houston, died in February 2012 after ingesting more than twelve prescription drugs. Anna Nicole Smith died from an accidental overdose of nearly nine prescription drugs. The list of celebrities who died from prescription drugs overdose is endless; Brittany Murphy, Marilyn Monroe, Dana Plato, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, and Michael Jackson are among the few celebrities whose deaths made news headlines around the globe.
For the rich and famous in Hollywood, drugs get the ‘party’ started. In recent times, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan have been found to be in possession and use of cocaine. The drug problem is rapidly growing within the entertainment industry and has also been in existence since a long time now. For celebrities to get their daily dose of drugs, all it takes is a phone call to someone who is ‘connected’ or enjoys privileged access to a supplier. In Los Angeles, the hub of all the glitz and the glamour, there is absolutely no shortage of suppliers who supply cocaine and marijuana. Club parties usually extend into house parties and go on until the wee hours of the morning. Celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan ask friends to come with drugs and not without them; according to sources, Lindsay is friends only with people who have access to the drugs and who are willing to facilitate her habit.
One reason why drugs are so pervasive in celeb land of the West is because celebs are unable to cope with the stress and anxiety in their profession. Since drugs are so widely available, they become more prone to addiction. A cocktail of alcohol, drugs, and other mood altering substances usually are considered to be the secret to nirvana. Western society also fails to provide a support system to the youth. In countries such as India, where the family support system still exists in many corners, drug abuse is less. However, rich parents in Hollywood themselves indulge in drug abuse and then expect their children to do drugs responsibly. Recently, Jon Bon Jovi discovered that his 19-year-old daughter suffered from a heroin drug-abuse problem. Celebrities such as Demi Moore, Nicole Richie, Cameron Douglas, Al Gore III, and Macaulay Culkin have all been caught using drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Is the celeb-drug abuse just the tip of the iceberg? With intense media focus on substance abuse restricted to illegal narcotics, are we forgetting the bigger drug problem that the US is currently facing?
While at one point in history we were concerned only about the use of illegal drugs; since the mid-1990s, the situation has become stickier with prescription drug abuse on the rise among many celebrities and high-net-worth individuals in the West, particularly in the United States. In fact, Heath Ledger’s autopsy and the toxicological analysis showed that he was addicted to central nervous system depressants and painkillers such as oxycodone, diazepam, and hydrocodone. Hydrocodone and oxycodone are both opioid painkillers and when ingested in large quantities they prove fatal, they cause death too. Even anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax, which is known to be one of the causes of Whitney Houston’s death, can be purchased over the counter or prescribed by a doctor who looks the other way. Studies and evidences show that prescription drug abuse in the US is not limited to celebrities but is a metastasizing disease. In 2010, studies showed that 2.4 million people in the US were using prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. Youngsters and even celebrities who are addicts do not realize that these drugs can prove to be more dangerous than illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine. National statistics also demonstrate that more people die due to the intake of legal narcotics every year than from that of heroin and cocaine combined.
The drug culture in America has become a deeply-rooted problem that stems from blatantly operating ‘pill mills’ of Florida where seven people die each day from drug overdose. The drug catastrophe in America is proving to be disastrous each day as ordinary teenagers and celebrities are succumbing to the effects of prescription painkillers like oxycodone. With no centralized tracking system in place for monitoring prescriptions, doctors in Florida are prescribing carelessly and storing away their profits. Children believe that if their mothers and fathers are consuming the oxycodone drug to get rid of their severe pain, they can consume it too without being subjected to any health hazard. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to get addicted to these drugs.
The list of people having been booked for substance abuse in India runs long too. Actors in the Indian film industry and in the social circuit here have been found to possess drugs like cocaine. Apart from the usage of illicit drugs, prescription drug abuse is also rising in India. Pharmaceutical abuse is rampant in states such as Mizoram and Punjab.
The celebrity drug culture in the US and in western society is not an isolated problem. The only way to stop prescription drug abuse is to put in place proper regulation of drugs, prescriptions, and medical practitioners who are selling the drugs to fill their own coffers. Apart from enforcing laws strictly and improving medical practice, the youth need to be educated about the repercussions of taking drugs without any medical reason. While countries such as the USA and Mexico are still worried about drug cartels smuggling cocaine and heroin, they must also be equally vigilant about the impending doom brought on by a nation full of prescription drug abusers who are ignorant of the ramifications. Drug abuse is an international problem and is not restricted to one section of society— the celebrities or the party-goers. Ordinary youngsters, children as young as ten, can become addicted to legal drugs such as cough syrup. Narcotics addiction is a serious problem that should not and must not be classified as a celebrity drug problem.