Addiction: A Pop Culture Sensation

This is the age of sensationalism. Celebrities are America’s royalty. We want to know every move they make, we want to be them. We enter into reality television shows in search of lavish lifestyle in the public eye; but like them the important stories and issues sit in the background while we waste our time and thoughts on meaningless drivel. The ugly part of this transition is the sensationalizing of these pop stars falling from grace, their lives are made into media spectacle.


Media Coverage

Think back to the media coverage on Charlie Sheen. I was in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day two years ago, and all you could find were t-shirts quoting Sheen’s insanity, and people screaming those quotes all over town. Lindsay Lohan is vilified, yet constantly in the spot light for her drug problem. When Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston passed away, the media took full advantage, and it was the only thing talked about for days, even weeks.

Here is a list of notable celebrity deaths from Wikipedia 

Shows like Celebrity Rehab and Intervention have grown in popularity, making addiction into a sad reality T.V.  joke.  Whether it’s celebrities or “normal” people, we are entertained by their self-destruction. These shows and stories numb the public to the seriousness of the issues. Americans laugh and gossip about the latest celebrity missteps, while addiction takes the lives of people we know and love. Families are torn apart, and all involved feel helpless.


Of course there are some exceptions. I recently watched an ESPN Films 30 for 30 documentary titled ‘Unguarded,’ the story of Chris Herren, a basketball star, who struggles with opiate addiction. Despite his celebrity, high income, and success on the court, his addiction eventually wins out, leaving him just as hopeless as every other addict. After reaching his bottom, he entered rehab and started attending twelve step meetings. Now sober, he now uses his popularity to spread his message to our military, families, and most importantly our youth.

Here is a preview of ‘Unguarded’ and an interview with Chris Herren.

You can purchase the full ESPN documentary ‘Unguarded’ on iTunes for a small fee.

Several other shows provide a more realistic perspective on addiction and drugs. Shows like ‘Drugs Inc.’ on National Geographic, ‘Curiosity: Your Body on Drugs’ on Discovery and HBO’s show ‘Addiction’ are on this short list. Unfortunately, the reality T.V. phenomenon doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. It’s doubtful, given the popularity of these types of prime time programs, that we will get anything different anytime soon. It would be nice if the news gave us important information, but for the time being, it’s up to us as individuals to educate ourselves.



ESPN Films

National Geographic




Look in the Mirror

A monster has escaped the dark streets of the inner city. It lurks undetected in the suburbs now, preying on the souls of the innocent.

What picture comes to mind when I say,”Junkie?”

Do you see a scruffy unkempt man or woman in dirty clothes? Are they desperately begging for change or shooting up dope in some dark alley? Are they homeless or crazy? Does a foul stink follow behind them? Is the person wandering the street with an emotionless stare?

This is an image we’ve all carried with us since the D.A.R.E. programs were implemented in elementary school. Images and stories we get from the Internet or the local news only add to this belief. This is an image we need to shatter.

To see the new face of addiction . . . Simply look in the mirror.


Addiction has infiltrated the security that the suburbs used to provide. A junkie might be your neighbor or your best friend. It could be your doctor, the lawyer, or even the judge. The monster, that is addiction, does not care who you are or what you do for a living. Addicts are getting younger and younger. Teens and young adults sneak into bathrooms and look behind the medicine cabinet mirror.

The middle class accepts pills, because a doctor is the drug dealer, therefor they must be safe. Pills don’t carry the stigma of heroin or crack. You swallow a capsule, as directed, and forget about it.  Drugs, in the form of prescription pills can be found easily in the suburbs, where healthcare is commonplace, as well as good jobs, and plenty of money.

You might say, “So what, pills are different.”

Research is now showing that prescription opioids are a key gateway drug for teenagers who begin to use heroin. The Center for Disease Control has reported that one in eight high school seniors will use painkillers without a prescription.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 introduced to heroin has grown by 80 percent since 2002. The number of heroin-related deaths has also more than doubled among young adults. The vast majority – close to 90 percent – of teen heroin addicts are white, and many reside in the safe haven of the suburbs.

This problem is two fold. The new gateway drug is prescriptions pills, which are almost exclusively found in the ‘burbs. Combine this with the outdated image of a junkie stuck in our heads, and we have the makings of a perfect assassin. One that could kill your brother, sister, son, daughter, or best friend, before you even know there’s a problem.

Today’s junkie may look like me – a tall, clean-cut, white man in glasses, wearing a button up shirt and V-neck sweater. He or she may smell nice, may have a good job, and pay their bills on time. Today’s junkie may have a nice house in a safe subdivision. They may never, at any point, appear to have a drug problem . . . Until it’s too late!



Drug Use and Addiction in the Suburbs

America’s Candy

Americas CandyWe Americans are great at consuming things. We are wasteful beyond belief and devour our resources without a second thought – I fully include myself in this group. Still, I am blown away by the wild numbers of prescription pills we consume as a population, especially painkillers. Are we all depressed, anxious, unfocused, suicidal, or in pain?

The United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but consumes 80 percent of its opioids — and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone, the opiate that is in Vicodin.

Prescription painkillers are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with deaths by overdose tripling in the last 30 years and overtaking car crashes for the first time.

These numbers are scary, and likely under reported. I wish we asked our doctors more question, and did more of our own research. I wish we all took more responsibility for ourselves and our children. Although doctors are at least partially to blame, we are allowed to say no. We are allowed to question the medications being prescribed. We are capable of tolerating pain. Why then, are we all prescribed or self medicating with something?

The numbers get worse, I will post some other figures on this topic in the near future.


Painkiller Abuse

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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