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The 27 Club: Addiction in High-Profile People

The 27 Club, sometimes referred to as the 27 Death Club, is a group of celebrities who have died by the age of 27 due to addiction issues or mental health crises. Familiar names on the 27 Club list include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones, and many other high-profile musicians and celebrities. Coincidentally, all of them passed away due to complications with mental health or substance abuse issues. 

Many have claimed that 27 is a dangerous age, especially for famous musicians. A statistical research study published by the British Medical Journal debunked that fact, confirming that famous musicians do not have an increased risk of death at the age of 27. However, due to risky behavior, musicians do have an increased risk of death in their 20s and 30s. 

All conspiracy claims aside, why do we as a society not encourage helping troubled celebrities who are publicly struggling with mental health issues or substance abuse disorders? Unfortunately, tabloids, talk shows, and paparazzi make significant amounts of money by revealing celebrities with these problems. When there is a lack of monetary gain for helping a star who is struggling, many simply don’t. In the meantime, consumers still ingest the stories and hoard the relics of their favorite celebrities who had preventable and tragic deaths. 


Approaching Addiction Taboos

A lot of the negative attention that draws a curious crowd into a person’s addiction struggles is caused by the taboo of substance abuse. Although music, films, and television shows frequently show addiction — often glorifying it — when someone in real life is struggling, the intrigued can quickly turn into the judgmental. The criminalization of substance abuse also deters many from becoming involved. Despite this, some places have leaned into the idea of decriminalizing substance abuse, dissipating the taboo and encouraging people to help instead. 

An article in the British Medical Journal highlights the benefits of decriminalization on societies facing substance abuse issues. According to the author’s study of decriminalization in the Netherlands, decriminalization allowed those suffering from substance abuse to be treated as patients, not as criminals. As the Prohibition era in the United States proved, the criminalization of alcohol led to an increase in crime and a decrease in the safety of consumers. By contrast, decriminalization in the Netherlands decreased addiction rates, increased education in addictive substances, and lessened the taboo of addiction. 

The article also discusses the possible economic gains of treating all addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco. Regulation of addictive drugs (for safety) and heavy taxes (for economic gain) can allow for reinvestment into addiction treatment and education, as well as other important government programs. Supporting those who need addiction treatment should not be taboo but a staple in a thriving society. As of 2021, Oregon is the first state to decriminalize drugs and will serve as our nation’s guinea pig for these potential benefits. 


Recognizing Addiction Struggles in High-Profile People

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says it quite simply: addiction can happen to anyone. It can be especially heartbreaking when that person is someone you admire or are close to. If you suspect that your loved one has a substance abuse problem, NIDA provides several questions that you can ask yourself. For example, does this person:

  • Use a substance in larger quantities or for longer than intended? 
  • Want to stop or cut back on a substance but can’t do it? 
  • Spend a lot of time getting, using, and recovering from a substance? 
  • Have cravings to use a substance? 
  • Have difficulty working, fulfilling responsibilities, or completing daily tasks?
  • Continue to use a substance even when it’s causing strain in their relationships? 
  • Give up activities they used to enjoy? 
  • Use again and again, even when it places them in dangerous situations?
  • Continue to use, even if they know this substance could worsen a physical or mental problem? 
  • Have to use more of a substance to get the desired effect? 
  • Show common withdrawal symptoms associated with the substance? 

Of course, these questions are hard to answer for high-profile people since most fans don’t personally know them. However, long-term fans may notice behavioral changes that are signs of addiction or mental health issues. Some stars are public about their substance use and use it as part of their act. Brave stars are the ones who go public about their struggles with mental health and addiction and then try to do something about them. It’s absolutely okay to continue supporting these artists. After all, celebrating your idol’s success in recovery is even better. 

Watching your idol go through mental health issues or substance abuse publicly can be triggering or disheartening for those in recovery, and that’s okay. At RECO Intensive, we understand that your journey is your own: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We understand that your struggles and your life in recovery will not always be roses, and it’s difficult to watch someone else you admire go through similar issues. At RECO Intensive, our specialized staff and experienced alumni can help you understand your addiction and guide you through your journey back into recovery. RECO Intensive will create a treatment plan that specifically caters to you, featuring inpatient and outpatient programs, as well as partial hospitalization. RECO Intensive offers a safe and inclusive environment that is open to people from all walks of life. To learn more, call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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