As if it wasn’t already difficult enough for the nation to mourn the loss of the pop icon, Prince, it eventually was discovered that his death was caused by accidental drug overdose. Although this news is definitely sad and certainly disturbing, I can’t say that it’s shocking. A pattern has formed amongst legendary performers, a pattern that almost always ends with a death by overdose. Think about who we’ve lost to drug related deaths; Prince, Michael Jackson, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Jim Belushi, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Sam Kinison, Chris Farley, Janis Joplin…unfortunately, a list that can go on forever. Some of the greatest talents of all time, the biggest stars the world has ever seen, taken too young and too soon by drugs or alcohol.
What is it about this ultra-elite population that makes drug abuse so prevalent? The odds seem to be stacked against these talented individuals, as if they are destined to bring immense joy to the world and then poetically pass away in sudden fashion leaving us all saying “How tragic! Imagine what they could have accomplished if they just lived a little bitter longer! I can’t believe they are gone just like that.” Trying to make sense of the overdose phenomenon of the uber-famous, I have come to a few conclusions as to what may lie at the root of this reoccurring issue.
As many of us know, it is commonly said that one must hit their “rock bottom” in order to have the desire to get clean and sober. Once the consequences caused by drug use begin to pile up and become unbearable, the desire to change often becomes stronger than the desire to continue using. But what if these consequences never truly occur?
They say that the three ultimate endings where an addict can end up are either jails, institutions, or death. Fortunately, jails and institutions are the two more common interventions out of those three options. Now, of course, I’m speaking of the common person but what about the Super A-Lister? With an army of staff at their beck and call, the best attorneys’ money can buy, and unlimited reach around the world, the same type of consequences that would normally bring the common man to his knees aren’t likely to occur with this small percentage of the population. They seem to be protected, sheltered, from the usual down falls caused by drug addiction. They seem to skip right over serving jail time, avoid spending time in institutions, and bounce right to death. There is no intervention for these celebs. They aren’t told what to do, they do the telling. When you are on top of the world, who can stop you from doing something? Well, I guess the grim reaper can.
Along with the lack of consequences that are normally accrued from regular, habitual drug abuse, I believe this population takes drug use to a whole different level than the normal user. Imagine a life in which an entire stadium is full of screaming fans just to see you perform. The adrenaline rush of walking out into the spot light night after night can make “real life” appear dull and boring. Once a person spends so much time in that spot light, that feelings of constant attention and release of endorphins can become addicting.
Like any addiction, the cravings for “more” progresses to the point where the person is doing anything they can to achieve that release of dopamine they have become so familiarized with. I can only imagine the level of excitement that is caused by having thousands of fans screaming your name but what I can’t imagine is coming down from that high or how one would be able to achieve that rush on a constant basis at the times when the fans aren't there to electrify you. Drugs seems to become the simple answer to finding that rush they’ve become accustomed to. The problem is; drugs kill you eventually.
In the end, whether it’s a lack of consequences and/or a chasing of the dragon, these legendary performers are taken from us way too young. Perhaps their unlimited fame gives them a messiah complex and they perceive themselves as being invincible. Well, unfortunately, no one is invincible to the devastating effects caused by substance abuse disorders. Drug addiction does not discriminate, not even for those “on top of the world”.
R.I.P. Prince 06/07/58 – 4/21/2016