Are we portraying addiction in such a way that it is glamorous or funny to our future generations? Explore the phenomenon of normalization of addiction.
Recently, there was uproar in the Laguna Niguel community in California regarding the use of a video showing two girls smoking the herb called salvia to get high. It was shown to a class of 5th graders as part of their drug-use prevention. During this video, the girls struggle to talk, stagger around and when they are able to speak, use obscenities. Parents were upset that this was used as part of an education program without their consent or knowledge or the right to refuse that it be shown to their children. Some parents felt that using a video further sensationalized the drugs to impressionable kids.
All too frequently there are stories in the news of sudden deaths of actors, actresses, singers, and athletes. These people are often role models for the youth of today – what kind of role model is one that uses drugs and/or alcohol? And what kind of message does it send when these role models get arrested for possession, or DUI, etc., and are given a lighter sentence because of their place in society/culture?
Does it teach our kids that it’s ok to do drugs or drink in excess as long as you know the right people or have enough money? Are we sensationalizing addiction? By having more and more shows and movies showing drug use or even drug manufacturing and distribution are we leading are our future generations to normalization of addiction?
Yes, it’s true, addiction happens and when it does happen, it happens to normal people, along with the rich and famous as well as the poor. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. However, it’s not something that we should be portraying as glamorous or funny. The truth of the matter is this: addiction hurts. It hurts the addict, their family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances, etc. Addiction can lead to job loss, loss of friends and family, health problems, diseases such as Hepatitis C or HIV/Aids, homelessness, or even death. Why then do people even start to take drugs? Why would they choose to lose their job, home, friends, family or life to something that is a temporary reprieve from the real world?
Many will argue that by seeing these “cultural icons” using and abusing drugs and alcohol, we are showing the world that you can be successful while using. The other side will argue, however, “how much more successful would the same people be if they weren’t on drugs or alcohol?’
Those are questions that don’t have easy answers and more often than not it’s because the life of these icons is cut short from their alcohol or drug abuse. It’s a sad day when someone’s talented life is cut short from something that can be helped.
If you or someone you love is battling with addiction, please know that there is help available. Addiction isn’t something that will go away on its own. It needs treatment and with the right treatment can be dealt with successfully.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.