We need to reevaluate the way the consumer media portrays drugs

Growing up, an emphasis was always placed on saying “No to Drugs” and celebrating Red Ribbon Week annually with crazy socks and an assortment of other colorful themes. But as I’ve gotten older, the lines between what was and was not acceptable in the way of drugs began to blur. 

With the consumer media (e.g. film and music) consistently portraying drugs in a way that makes them seem like an avenue for “good times,” the practices that we instill in children to live their lives drug-free are quickly losing their magnitude.

HBO’s hit series Euphoria, which centers around high school students and their experiences with drug use, received 5.6 million viewers the weekend after the release of the series finale in 2019, and its popularity has only skyrocketed since. It has come to be extremely popular among teenagers who are able to find aspects of themselves in the characters and, in some cases, the events that they are sucked into – most of which are not to be boasted about.

Even actors and actresses have taken to using their platforms outside of their work to promote the use of drugs, especially alcohol and marijuana. Seth Rogan has recently become one of the most prevalent marijuana users in the film industry, stating in an interview with The Irish Times that he’s “honored to be associated with weed” and is “as proud of it as anything.” He is one of many celebrities who have begun their own line of cannabis, including musical artists Jay-Z and Ice Cube.

Themes of drug use aren’t any less apparent in music either, with artists like the Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) and Miley Cyrus, who often sing of substance abuse, continuously topping charts. Cyrus, in her song “D.R.E.A.M.” sings, “We’re all tryna fill the lonely/Drugs rule everything around me,” while Tesfaye laments “When I’m f**ked up, that’s the real me” in “The Hills” and devotes the entirety of “Can’t Feel My Face” to comparing drug addiction to a relationship with a woman.

Not all drugs mentioned are “heavy-hitters” like cocaine and ecstasy, with most in fact being fairly “common” drugs like alcohol, marijuana, and prescription medication – all of which can be addictive and even fatal if not used properly.

This is not a new trend by any means, with drug references appearing in consumer media as early as the 1930s. However, with the legalization of marijuana and the rapid growth of the opioid industry, any preventative measures society can take to show younger generations that substance abuse is harmful should be taken.

Despite the common argument, most celebrities are not glamorizing the drug-abusing lifestyle – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Many have struggled with addiction for years prior to and/or during stardom and use their work as a platform to expose the harms of the substances. The problem, however, becomes that some audience members – especially impressionable teenagers – distort the message and use it as a subconscious means of justification for substance use. 

Rather than evaluating the mistakes our idols – like Michael Jackson, Pink, Demi Lovato, DMX, Prince, or Heath Ledger – have made and trying to learn from them, their work is misconstrued. 

How we can stop this growing problem is another issue on its own, but a great step we can all take is by consciously limiting our intake of specific artists that promote drug culture.


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