She Said: Celebrities, drug abuse, and legalization

Bhavana Vadlamani | Contributing Writer

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Celebrity substance abuse has unfortunately become a commonly acknowledged topic over the past few years. With the deaths of famous entertainers such as Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse and now the magnificent Whitney Houston, there is a heavy demand accumulating for the legalization of drugs in our country. What we fail to realize is that such legalization, in effect, could potentially destroy our nation.

Celebrities are disadvantaged from the start in the sense that they are more prone to drug abuse than the rest of the population. There is an overexposure to both drugs and alcohol in their professional setting, which instigates temptation and in unfortunate causes ultimate consumption. It can be argued that since these individuals are indeed “celebritized” for their talent and skills they become gradually accustomed and addicted to the “high” that fame often provides. Once this “high” comes to an end, the individual begins to seek similar feelings of elatedness and ultimately finds it in the form of, say, an illegal powdered substance. Unfortunately, to add to this newfound addiction, celebrities also have more money to sustain their addiction over a longer period of time than the common individual who would comparatively end up in rehab/jail much earlier. Due to their celebrity status, it is often claimed that these individuals receive less harsh sentences and often get released easily on bail. Therefore, some of these factors may have played a significant role leading to the eventual demise of the tremendously talented individuals mentioned above. Even though we mourn this loss as a country, our decisive course of action should not be to legalize drug usage for the mere reason that some believe these deaths could have been prevented in this fashion.

The core argument of pro-legalizers is that legalization would stop violence, black market profits, and over dosage and, in turn, celebrity drug-related deaths. They also attest to the fact that drug legalization will provide a more regulated and controlled environment which will be safer for adult use and less accessible to children. The pro-legalization campaign claims that less government intervention will be the end result and that since it is an “individual’s choice,” the government should not impose limits on such liberties.  First of all, it is foolish to presume that drug abuse is an “individual choice” and that it only affects the person who chooses to use it. We have observed how drug abuse can lead to violence, rapes, kidnapping and homicides. Drugs can be an instigator of all sorts of crime that involve and affect many lives. Also, drug abuse in general promotes violence. Legalizing drugs will not reduce crime, because most crime is committed while people are under the influence of drugs, not while they are trying to obtain them. Therefore, the legalization of drugs will not deter their influence and ultimate effects. Additionally, legalization will provide more widespread accessibility; therefore, crime is actually prone to increase. Although drug usage may be controlled by medical professionals when “legalized,” this does not take away from illegal sales. Due to cheaper costs, increased potency, or other similar reasons, legalization will not wipe out the presence and growth of the illegal black market. In fact, the black market may specifically cater towards children as their prime consumers, spreading a drug epidemic across the nation, leading to our demise.

It should also be noted that a substance is illegal because it is dangerous, and somehow reversing those terms will not make the substance any less dangerous. Legalizing drugs additionally will not imply less government intervention. On the contrary, there will be stricter guidelines imposed and taxation may eventually result, as in the case of the legalization of alcohol and cigarettes. Conclusively, we may be receiving more government intervention instead of less.

A more childish argument for pro-legalizers involves the idea that legalizing drugs will lessen the “thrill,” and people will be less likely to use them. This is a completely theoretical argument that has little backbone when put to practical use. Here, we are dealing psychology. Although it is noted that a child forbidden from something he desperately wants will try his best to achieve it, it should also be realized that this does not necessarily imply that the same child is less likely to take the same substance if it is freely given to him. For instance, a brownie analogy can be applied here. If a child is forbidden to eat a brownie he will want the brownie even more and may even sneakily obtain it. This is a known fact. However, the same child when allowed that brownie will probably take it anyway, because he wants the brownie for the pleasure it provides him, not only because it is “forbidden.” So, the end result is the same in both scenarios: the brownie is obtained.

Adults are the same in essence; most times we still would want the desired object even if it’s not forbidden to us. This applies to just about anything, even drug use. Just because drugs are legalized doesn’t mean people will be less likely to try them. It just means that people will not try as hard to obtain them, because they simply won’t need to. For instance, the legalization of alcohol did not decrease its national consumption just because it was legalized. Instead, now that it is more readily available, even the common man is more likely to try it because it is void of any legal risk. The basis for this argument is assuming that the only reason people try drugs is because they are not allowed to, which is not true most of the time. The majority continues to use drugs because of the “high” it provides and will not suddenly stop because they are legalized because, in essence, the “high” is still present.

Therefore, our necessary mode of action is to continue to educate our youth and possibly raise the penalty bar for celebrities so they at least fall under the same code of justice as the rest of the population. Legalization will not help anyone, and it will definitely not reduce the number of deaths. We need to continue the drug war with a steadfast approach and hope that the vision to reduce and eventually eradicate illegal drug possession and abuse shapes our reality.