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Celebrities Speaking Out: Addressing the Stigma of Addiction

Dozens—if not hundreds—of celebrities have used their platforms to speak up about their personal histories of substance abuse.

Their stories resonate with thousands—if not millions—of people who quickly discover that celebrities are just as vulnerable to the disease of addiction as anyone else.

In the entertainment world, which once kept struggles with substance abuse under wraps, sobriety is now being celebrated, and the cultivation of awareness for addiction and mental health concerns is greater than ever before.

Today, we rarely go a week without another individual in the spotlight coming forward to share their journey, with many of those individuals citing their fans as their reason for doing so.

With the US Surgeon General reporting that 1 in 7 in the United States will face some form of substance addiction in their lifetime, it is important to offer hope through sharing stories of success in sobriety, and to remind those who continue to struggle that they are not alone.

The Celebrity Effect

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis revealed the extent of her opioid addiction in a recent issue of PEOPLE, stating that, “I had a 10-year run, stealing, conniving. No one knew. No one.”

Curtis, who found fame in the 1980s with the popular Halloween movie series, fiercely hid her secret, telling the publication she was “ahead of the curve of the opiate epidemic.”

Now sober for 20 years, Curtis is a role model for long-term success in sobriety, though she is humbled by her journey, stating that in spite of her fame and other success, “Getting sober remains my single greatest accomplishment […].”

During Curtis’ active addiction, speaking up about getting sober was far less common. Although programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous had existed since 1935, addiction was an issue typically dealt with in private, as the stigmas associated with the disease were overpowering.

In today’s culture, the stigmas associated with addiction are still very much alive, despite the progress we have made in cultivating awareness. With less than ten percent of those suffering from substance use disorders getting treatment, it is clear that we still have a long way to go.

Rapper Macklemore, who has been extremely outspoken about his own journey to recovery, stated in a 2016 interview that, “If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed, when I needed it, I definitely wouldn’t be here today. This doesn’t just happen to other people’s kids or in some other neighborhood. It can happen to anyone.”

Finding Inspiration in the Stories of Others 

Many professionals describe addiction as a disease of isolation, which can have a significant impact on recovery. Finding community with those who are experiencing similar struggles, can have a tremendous effect on an individual who is reluctant to get help.

With so many accounts of drug abuse and recovery in today’s entertainment headlines, we have a new opportunity to spread awareness, as many celebrities are doing through their personal Instagram accounts. From Jason Biggs to Dax Shepard and Eminem, inspiration can be found in the form of an AA chip, proudly displayed in their respective feeds as they acknowledge the difficult daily work of sobriety.

Making treatment available—and exercising compassion toward those who are seeking help—is crucial in making a difference. As more public figures and celebrities share their stories and encourage others to seek help, advocacy and empathy set the stage for a new generation of sobriety.

It is a generation that will thrive from education, prevention, awareness, and perhaps most importantly, the perpetual reminder that we are not alone in the fight against addiction.

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