Celebrity Misbehavior Highlights Addiction Epidemic
> 6/8/2007 10:02:55 AM

Our response to the public embarrassments enveloping celebutantes like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan may be a collective snort, but we should not dismiss their troubles as merely a source for entertainment during workday downtime. For these (largely female) stars serve as the public face of a uniquely American tragedy, according to Courtney E. Martin, author of "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters": young women with fragile self-images who, in the midst of the pressures exerted by our increasingly scrutinous society, succumb to the dangers of addiction. As patently stereotypical as this description may sound, it is far more common than most would like to think. Behaving in ways that seem deliberately self-destructive, these young women have lost control of their own lives in a haze of intoxication and dissolving responsibility.

For every Hilton driving under the influence or Lohan caught consuming drugs on tape, there are thousands more across the country whose encounters with dangerous illegality go unreported. Even those closest to them are often either unaware of the problem or unable or unwilling to stop it. Certain statistics may lead one to believe that drug abuse is in decline among young Americans: the use of illicit substances like cocaine, heroin and even marijuana is down across the board. But binge drinking, and particularly the very disturbing trend of prescription drug abuse, have witnessed a steep rise over the last few years. And young girls, who were long surpassed by their male peers in terms of frequency and quantity of drug use, have now almost equaled them. In fact, women are considerably more likely to be prescription drug abusers. And while the percentage of young men involved in alcohol-related car accidents has declined steadily over the past several years, the same number has gone up for girls. Alcohol in particular often affects women in a different way, and studies find that women who engage in binge drinking are also far more likely to have unprotected sex and suffer from its innumerable negative effects. Despite the barrage of negative information available on the subject of addiction, people like the celebrities mentioned above seem to get away with it, almost thriving on it. They can go through a stint in rehab and open a blockbuster in the same week. They can be arrested for drunk driving and be back on the social scene, drinking underage at the trendiest clubs within hours.

We as a society clearly need to stop indirectly justifying such behavior by declining to support the industries that feed on it: the tabloid programs, magazines and websites that attract the curious eyes of millions every day. But it's not only lowbrow publications that dwell on these unsavory exploits, and even those making a concerted effort to avoid such drivel probably have at least a cursory knowledge of the stars and their respective scandals. Millions find themselves disgusted not only by the events themselves but by the endless attention they receive from the various wings of our ominpresent media. And while millions respond to such unbelievable antics with a tossed off "I would never do that," just as many seem to find some form of (possibly subconscious) justification for their own unhealthy behaviors under the headlines. While one may refuse to voluntarily research Paris Hilton or peruse the innumerable online resources that relay tales of her latest escapades every day, very few Americans, especially those under the age of fifty, can honestly claim not to recognize her face. Instead of focusing our ire on what a vacuous celebrity vessel she happens to be (and, ironically, only further supporting her empire), we should turn our attentions to the those who matter - the millions of American girls whose own habits, whether intentionally or not, far too closely mirror those of Paris, Lindsay and Britney.

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