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5 Things We Can Learn from Celebrity Overdoses

This entry was posted in Addiction Recovery, Drug Abuse and tagged 5 things to learn from a celebrity overdose, celebrity overdoses on November 03, 2021 by Justin Baksh, MS, LMHC, MCAP, Chief Clinical Officer.

Celebrities have a way of dominating the headlines. No matter where you are in the world, just one celebrity tweet can send a shockwave that reaches you. And if there’s a story about a celebrity overdose – whether they are a musician, actor, athlete, influencer, or some other beloved famous person – you can bet it will top nearly every newsfeed that day, regardless of what else may be happening.

It’s not just the news sites, either. It’s on social media and it’s in real life, too.

People will share the details of celebrity overdoses and try to analyze why they happened. They will review the celebrities’ careers, dish about their personal lives, and showcase the outpouring of support from millions of fans and friends.

There is something else, though, that immediately follows celebrity overdoses: A major spike in calls to drug and alcohol rehab centers. When something happens to a celebrity, it can influence us to take action in our own lives.

Why Celebrity Overdoses Fascinate Us

Nearly everything a celebrity does gets attention, however, studies have shown that people take particular notice of major overdose stories.

Why do we pay so much attention to a celebrity overdose?

It’s because of what psychology practitioners call the halo effect. The halo effect is the tendency to be biased in our impressions of someone. Specifically, we form a positive impression of them in one area and feel that it applies to all areas of their personality and life.

For example, if you think someone is a good actor, the halo effect will lead you to believe that they must be intelligent, kind, and a good person too. It’s not just celebrities that this applies to. Studies show that there is a halo effect with regular citizens who are very attractive.

Now, when something happens that disproves our bias, it can be disruptive. In the case of a celebrity overdose, it can also be a wake-up call for those struggling with addiction. Because celebrities are expected to not only enjoy the very best of everything but also to have amazing discipline, it comes as a shock when they don’t live up to those (impossible) expectations.

Also, news of celebrity overdoses can cause us to realize that, if it could happen to someone rich and famous, it could easily happen to us as well.

That’s why, when there’s news that someone with money and unlimited resources has struggled with the same addiction others struggle with, it’s a major story that inspires major change in thousands of people across the globe.

Lessons Learned from Celebrity Overdoses

People who were inspired to act after learning of a celebrity overdose have nuggets of wisdom to share with all of us. The top five are listed below.

  1. You cannot regulate poison. There is no truth to the rumors or belief that you can regulate drug use. Yes, there may be those who use a substance occasionally, but they are not dealing with addiction. Addiction is a disease, and those who suffer from it can’t control it. Imagine if you compared addiction to cancer. Would you be okay with that “little bit” of cancer in your body, going unchecked and untreated? Of course not!  You would want it completely removed and to have routine checkups to make sure it stays gone. Addiction needs to be treated with the same mindset and dedication.
  2. You must adopt a zero-tolerance policy with yourself. It’s been said that addicts are usually great liars. Many times, though, it’s because of the many lies they tell themselves. Think about someone battling a weight problem – another thing we see celebrities struggle with (along with some of the rest of us). When they are unable to lose the weight, many times the first thing blamed is access to unhealthy food and beverages. So, yes, while celebrities may have greater access to everything – including food and alcohol – they have every advantage to stay healthy as well. Still, they can struggle with losing weight because of the constant justifications to themselves. We all have the capacity to do this…. it’s just one doughnut or drink or hit. Unfortunately, you cannot reason with yourself. You must adopt a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to addiction.
  3. It’s not if but when. The first thing we tell ourselves when we hear about a celebrity overdose is that “they must have overdone it.” This allows us to crush any concerns about the same thing happening to us. The fact is that the celebrity who overdosed probably thought the same thing: It can’t happen to me. I am famous. I can regulate it. I know what I am doing, I have the best quality stuff, etc. Every excuse they told themselves before they got high led to their demise. Unfortunately, an overdose is a risk for anyone who doesn’t get their addiction in check. With addiction, it’s not a matter of whether bad (or even fatal) consequences will happen. When will an overdose, an accident, or other tragedy occur?
  4. If they can trick themselves, so can you. Again, celebrities are investing in themselves and their physical well-being every day. We average citizens, on the other hand, have no immediate reason to focus on our health. If we gain weight, eat unhealthily, do drugs, and don’t sleep well, it doesn’t noticeably cost us as far as our ability to make a living. Celebrities and athletes, on the other hand, must always be in the best possible physical shape. They must always invest in their bodies and their health because their livelihood depends on it. If celebrities have more resources and time to stay healthy and still fail, do you think your story will be any different?
  5. It’s on you to want to get better. You don’t think there were hundreds of people who were desperately trying to help those celebrities? Not only friends and family, but coworkers, managers and so forth were undoubtedly trying to get their attention. In fact, some of these people make their living by working for or with these famous people, and their livelihoods would be greatly impacted if the battle against addiction is lost. If these people cannot sway someone (even those with extreme motivation and discipline) to make a change, that should tell us that the decision to change is solely on us. We cannot make the change unless we decide it’s going to happen. Other people can’t do it for us.

Make the Decision Today

When the news of a celebrity overdose breaks, people are always shocked. Many of us view these people as role models, using their success as our motivation. The problem is that we don’t see the dedication or struggles they go through. If someone who has spent years perfecting their craft and has accomplished great success can easily fall to these substances, anyone can.

Always remember: There are no success stories when it comes to active addiction. The only success stories are about people who beat their addiction and live a happier, healthier life.

Ultimately, the passing of a celebrity or athlete from an overdose should be a reality check for any of us who feel that we can “manage our addiction better.”

The truth is that addiction is like a cancer. It takes a toll on you. Its effects may pass undetected for a while, but, even in the early stages, it begins to impact you and your loved ones. You cannot manage cancer. You either let it grow or take steps to beat it. Make the decision to beat addiction today. Thousands of people have already done so, and are waiting for you to join them.

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