Substance Use in the Arts and Entertainment Industry

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By: SUPE Editorial Team

Drug and alcohol addiction in the arts and entertainment industry is a common problem. From movies to music and everywhere in between, pop culture and entertainment are riddled with substance use and addiction problems.

What Factors Influence Substance Use in the Entertainment Industry?

The rates of substance use in the arts and entertainment industry are high. Yet, there is no single cause that has been directly linked to the development of this problem. Substance use disorders result from a combination of risk factors increasing the probability of someone developing an addiction.

Some of the common factors include some of the following:

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Environmental factors can also significantly influence an individual’s risk of becoming addicted. For example, physical, emotional, or sexual trauma. Peer pressure and individuals who influence others.

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Family history and genetics. Generally, someone with a family member with a history of addiction has an increased risk of developing an addiction.

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Pre-existing medical conditions. Substance use disorder and mental health disorders are interconnected, whether directly or indirectly.

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Age of exposure, such as being exposed to drugs or alcohol during early adolescence, is associated with poor outcomes in adulthood.

The Prevalence of Addiction Within the Entertainment Industry

Besides what is read about in the tabloids and seen on social media feeds, there is little documented data about the prevalence of addiction within the entertainment industry.

In 2015, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found some of the following data related to individuals who worked within the entertainment industry:

11.5% of workers reported past month heavy alcohol use

Roughly 11.5% of workers reported past month heavy alcohol use, compared to 8.7% of all those surveyed.

13.7% of workers reported the past month's illicit drug use

Approximately 13.7% of workers reported the past month’s illicit drug use, compared to 8.6% of all those surveyed.

12.9% of workers reported past year drug or alcohol dependence

12.9% of workers reported past year drug or alcohol dependence, compared to 9.5% of all surveyed workers.

Another interesting fact:

A 2016 study looked at nearly 250 celebrities who died from a drug overdose between 1970 and 2015. More than half of the celebrity deaths included in the study were from the entertainment industry. Musicians accounted for 38.6% of the deaths, actors accounted for 23.2%, and artists accounted for 6.4% of overdose deaths. It was also shown that 13.7% of actors who died worked within the pornographic film industry.

The Galmarization of Drugs and Alcohol

The use of drugs and alcohol is ingrained in every culture. In the United States, for example, drugs and alcohol have a major role in social and cultural activities, such as sporting events, family functions, holiday parties, etc.

Within the arts and entertainment industry, addiction is often displayed and glamorized in movies, television, and music. Studies have shown some of the following:

  • Drugs are shown in nearly half of all music videos, which include alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.
  • Someone drinking alcohol is shown on television every 22 minutes, a smoking scene every 57 minutes, and illicit drug use scene every 112 minutes.
  • Approximately 71% of prime-time television programs depict alcohol use.
  • One-third of all alcohol-drinking scenes on television are shown as being humorous, with only one-quarter showing the negative consequences.
  • The average teenager is exposed to nearly 85 drug references in popular music.
  • Approximately 40% of social medial platforms reference substance use.

Influence is a Major Factor in Drug and Alcohol Use

Numerous studies have shown that media strongly influences the decisions of children, adolescents, and adults. In the age of global social media platforms, the specific actions and recommendations of celebrities easily influence the decisions of the individual. Endorsements from celebrities or influencers are targeted to help people make positive associations, build trust, and encode memories.

An individual’s source of entertainment significantly contributes to the risk that a person engages in with substance use.

  • Teens who spend time on social media platforms are twice as likely to use marijuana.
  • Teens who watch R-rated movies are six times more likely to try marijuana.
  • The increased consumption of popular music is associated with marijuana use.

Test Your Knowledge

Substance Use in the Arts and Entertainment Industry

Media strongly influences the decisions of children, adolescents, and adults.

Drugs and alcohol are never glamorized in media and pose no danger.

What are some of the factors that influence substance use in the arts and entertainment industry?

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