A Tribute To Actors Tragically Lost To Overdose. By Maggie Potter.
Drug use in Hollywood is nothing new. That’s kind of an easy statement to gloss over, isn’t it? Doesn’t that make you a bit sad when you really think about it?
As a culture, we’ve seemed to accept the fact that many celebrities take drugs. Some have been very upfront about their usage and have even publicly checked into rehab facilities. Others tend to keep their addictions hidden until tragedy strikes and the public learns about their struggles with addiction by reading about their deaths due to overdose.
The opioid problem certainly isn’t limited to Hollywood. It’s a major issue all across the country. In fact, drug overdose is the number one cause of death for adults under the age of 50.
Even though it’s easy to assume that famous actors have everything they could ever want, and maybe when it comes to materialistic things, that’s true. But actors and depression often go hand-in-hand, causing many of them to turn to drugs as coping mechanisms. That has resulted in many beloved actors taking their own lives with drugs over the years.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the impact of drug use in Hollywood, and pay tribute to some of the best actors that were taken from us too soon.
The Pressures of Hollywood
It’s easy to think that actors have nothing but free time, but Hollywood itself places a lot of pressure on celebrities to stay relevant, to stay beautiful, and to stay popular. Many actors work 15+ hour days when they’re on set, thanks to everything from location changes to hair and makeup. While they may not be shooting movies or TV shows all year, they spend a lot of their free time traveling to promote what they’ve been working on, doing interviews, photoshoots, and training. It’s not always the “life of luxury” that we assume it to be.
In addition to some pretty intense working conditions, there are a lot of pressures in the film and television industry to look a certain way.
For some actors, that means things like restrictive diets or working out more than the average person. Sometimes, even a specific role can cause an actor to have to modify their body in an extreme way. Zac Efron had to get down to 5% body fat in just 12 weeks for his role on Baywatch, combining weight loss and bodybuilding techniques to transform his physique. Christian Bale lost a dangerous 63 pounds for his role in The Machinistby only eating one can of tuna and an apple each day.
Body image issues and the pressure to look a certain way can lead to mental health conditions like:
- Body dysmorphia
When actors feel they have to look a certain way, either to fit into the celebrity culture or for a specific role, it creates a pressure that most of us don’t have to deal with on a regular basis. Some use drugs as a way to cope or to feel better about those pressures.
Glamorizing Drugs on Screen
Hollywood has never been shy about showing drugs on-screen and even glamorizing their usage. Unfortunately, some movies fail to show the huge risks of drug usage or the consequences that could come from it.
Actors are just that. The drugs they portray using in movies aren’t real. But it’s a culture that can sometimes feel more accepting of drug use than others. Because of the pressures of Hollywood and the culture itself, we’ve unfortunately lost some incredible, legendary actors through the years, including:
- Philip Seymour Hoffman
- Judy Garland
- John Belushi
- Chris Farley
- Brittany Murphy
While some of these actors struggled with drug use for years, others dealt with addiction in silence until their deaths. While that should make the awareness of drug use and mental health in Hollywood more important than ever, not much has changed when it comes to the film and television industries’ fight against drugs.
Actors Gone Too Soon
Opioids and other harmful drugs aren’t only problematic for adults. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, 3.6% of youths ages 12-17 reported misusing opioids, and that number doubled for those ages 18-25.
Young actors aren’t immune to the drug crisis facing America. Even if they might have bright, successful futures ahead, they can face the same pressures from Hollywood that veteran actors have to deal with. In fact, they might even be under more stress when it comes to appearing youthful and energetic, combined with having a demanding schedule.
Some of the most notable actors who died incredibly young due to an overdose or a combination with alcohol include:
- River Phoenix (23)
- Heath Ledger (28)
- Cory Monteith (32)
Even the classic Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe died of an overdose at just 36 years old.
The stories of young actors struggling with depression, the pressure to perform, to look perfect, and to really “make it” in Hollywood seem to be far too common. It’s difficult to think of an umbrella solution to the problem, since drug use is so prominent throughout the country, and the world, but for the Hollywood elite and up-and-coming actors, making mental health a priority and finding healthy ways to cope with the pressures of an acting career can help to lower the risk of developing addictions. As a result, hopefully, we’ll see fewer news headlines about a beloved actor taking their own life with drugs.
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