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Since the early days of pop culture, the public has idolized the celebrity lifestyle. Stars set the standard for fashion and politics. But with great power comes great responsibility, and media influence is not always good.
Artists sing about getting high, athletes get busted for steroids, and dozens of actors spend time in rehab.
By standing on America’s pedestal yet making poor life decisions, what example are celebrities setting?
Young people tend to model their behavior after superstars. Does seeing Zac Efron or Michael Phelps with drugs influence them?
Some of the greatest entertainers have prominently dealt with addictions. Stars like Ben “Macklemore” Haggerty, Robert Downey Jr. and Eminem have undergone rehabilitation for substance abuse.
Others have died from overdosing and alcohol poisoning, leaving fans to mourn the loss of talents like Amy Winehouse and Heath Ledger.
On July 13, Twitter flooded with reports that actor Cory Monteith was found dead in a hotel room. While the official cause was not immediately released, speculations were that he fatally combined alcohol with heroin.
Monteith’s demise came after years of battling addiction, leaving fans to question what went wrong and Glee producers scrambling to write his character out of the show.
Dr. Aida Sapp, a professor in the College of Nursing, uses stars like Monteith for mental health lectures.
“He struggled, and he was so transparent about it,” she said. “Little did we know he was in the process of leaving a legacy for himself. He talked about how hard it was and how he just failed time and time again.”
The public’s view of celebrity addictions is mixed. While some appreciate the authenticity of stars addressing their struggles, others grow tired of the constant coverage of hot messes like Miley Cyrus.
Some have argued that when a celebrity overdoses, he or she is viewed as a “tragic hero,” but when an average Joe faces the same struggles, he or she is labeled a junkie who had it coming.
Dean of students Ray Martin believes celebrities serve as a warning for young people rather than an example.
“Who wants to have happen to them what’s happened to Lindsay Lohan?” he asked. “It’s just amazing what she’s thrown away.”
Often, celebrities are sent to rehabilitation centers more resembling a beach resort than anything else.
VH1 featured a television show called Celebrity Rehab, highlighting the lack of severity in dealing with addictions.
Campus police Chief Gary Sargent finds that in many cases, A-listers’ behaviors desensitize the public to the consequences.
“They don’t see the homeless person out on the street because of drug use or people in the penitentiary because of drug use,” he said. Instead, Sargent said youth see most everything but reality. “They see a celebrity who is very successful and well off who uses drugs. That simply isn’t factual.”