Most of us associate addiction with homelessness, domestic violence, and, occasionally, an 80s rock star. Few of us think about alcoholism or prescription pain-pill abuse and think about the rich and famous, the successful, the people who, on the outside, are making the most of their lives. 18.4 million U.S. adults struggle with a substance use disorder, yet we associate drug use and abuse with shame, stigma, and personal failing. That has to change if we want to create a culture of acceptance, recognizing problems, and willingness to seek help.
While celebrities are sometimes famous for drug and alcohol usage, including dying of overdose, it’s much rarer for someone in a position of prestige to come out and talk about their struggles with addiction and trying to overcome it. These 7 celebrities have, serving a powerful reminder that everyone needs help and no one, no matter how successful, is immune from or above addiction.
Lady Gaga remains one of the most celebrated pop artists of contemporary times, but the artist has struggled with substance abuse throughout her career. Gaga smokes cannabis and admitted that she moved into excessive usage following surgery, when battling pain. The artist smoked 15-20 joints a day, until her friends came together in an intervention. While Gaga hasn’t gone to rehab, she did quit for 4 weeks with the help of her therapist and personal assistants, before picking up a much lighter habit.
Demi Moore is an incredibly successful pop singer and actress, but she’s also struggled heavily with drug and alcohol abuse throughout her life. The singer first turned to alcohol as a teen, reaching a point where she was addicted. Overcoming that, she stayed sober until 2018, when, in a fit of depression and anxiety, she spent several months binging on drugs and alcohol. She had a near-fatal overdose, followed by rehab. Today, Moore is vocal about her overdose, as well as the mental illness, depression, trauma, and childhood trauma that led to her substance abuse. While Demi has spent most of her life sober, her experience is a strong reminder that even someone who’s overcome addiction in the past is still at risk.
Ed Sheeran is one of the world’s most popular singer songwriters, but his food and alcohol addictions remained relatively quiet for most of his career. He first opened up about seeking treatment on the Jonathon Ross Show, and shared more in a 2020 YouTube documentary, Chasing the Present.
“The buses would park underneath the arenas and I’d sleep on the bus all day, then wake up and then come out, do the show, drink, get back on the bus and I didn’t see sunlight for maybe four months.”
Today, Sheeran has gotten clean and has returned to his tour, with more care and more attention to his lifestyle and his health.
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Most people know Brad Pitt as one of the most successful actors on the planet, with a film career spanning several decades. But, as Pitt admitted in a 2018 GQ interview, he’s had a lifelong struggle with alcohol and cannabis. The actor shared how he smoked and drank every single day in memory since college, eventually coming to a head with altercations and a public divorce with his wife Angelina Jolie. Pitt later sought out rehab, getting clean, and attending Alcoholics Anonymous, which he now praises. Pitt eventually spent over a year and a half publicly attending 12-step meetings in an all-male group, which he said was essential for his growth and his recovery. While the actor is no longer public about his AA attendance, he still sees therapists and is still publicly clean and sober.
While the Canadian pop star is better known for screaming fans than drug use, the once-child star struggled heavily with popularity, social pressure, and mental illness. The star opened up about his battles with drug and alcohol abuse when seeking rehab, but shared heavily in a 2020 documentary, “Justin Bieber: Sessions”. The artist revealed heavy marijuana use from when he was 12, putting him in a high-risk category for addiction, as well as following addictions to alcohol, heavy MDMA usage, and pill abuse.
“My security and stuff would come into my room at night to check my pulse. People don’t know how serious it got. It was legit crazy scary. I was waking up in the morning and the first thing I was doing was popping pills and smoking a blunt and starting my day. It just got scary.”
Demi Moore has been public about her lifelong struggles with addiction and drug use, including abusing pain pills. Her stints in rehab, public discussions with the New York Times, and more recent discussion with Jada Pinkett Smith on the Red Table Talks, and her memoir, Inside Out, reveal that Moore turned to substance abuse to self-medicate. Moore’s problematic relationship with drugs and alcohol came to a head in a 2012 overdose, followed by a stint in rehab. She later relapsed and is again seeking treatment for prescription pill abuse.
Lena Dunham has a long and well-documented history of anxiety, having been diagnosed with anxiety and OCD as a child. The actress and producer eventually developed an addiction to her prescription medication, Klonopin, and how she let her addiction and dependence on the drug go for years, because it wasn’t a street drug. She eventually went to rehab
“I thought drug addicts were depraved lunatics who wandered the streets, demanding crack from innocent children and flaunting their open wounds in public parks. And I was a successful, capable celebrity who wandered red carpets demanding attention and flaunting her open boobs on TV. It’s totally different,”
Drug and alcohol abuse are a mental health disorder, affecting millions of people. If you or a loved one is struggling, there’s no shame in admitting you have a problem and getting help. Addiction rehab works. Modern treatment uses behavioral therapy, counseling, and, in some cases, medication to help you overcome the physical and mental aspects of addiction, learn new behaviors and new coping mechanisms, and build the skills to live a happy and healthy life without drugs and alcohol.
Addiction will destroy your life. You’re vulnerable whether you’re facing poverty, whether you’re rich, whether you have a seemingly happy life, and whether you’re outwardly coping well or not. If you’re struggling, it’s important to get help before substance abuse further damages your life and your health.