Celebrity drug use creates false image

By Isabelle Rogers

Staff Writer

Ex-drug user and ‘13 Prospect graduate James Sebert* was in eighth grade when he started to experiment with drugs. It was during health class that Sebert started to get curious about the truth behind them.

“My teacher told us we were going to die if we ever took one hit of weed, and I thought, ‘You’re full of (expletive),'” Sebert said. “It made me think that they were probably lying about all the other stuff too, and then I found out that they do. They over-exaggerate a lot of the drugs to make them look worse, but then I went a little too far with that.”

Sebert took health class’s warnings with a grain of salt and started to experiment with a few new drugs.

Sebert struggled with cocaine abuse up until a year ago. Throughout sophomore year, Sebert got into drinking and started using more drugs until he was sent to rehabilitation.  Even throughout his rehabilitation, Sebert would use drugs that didn’t show up on tests, such as Benzodiazepine which is used to treat anxiety disorders, and has hypnotic qualities. Halfway through 2012, he had stopped taking illicit drugs.

“I found myself saying, ‘Oh, they aren’t that bad; they just don’t want them legal,'” Sebert said. “I just fooled myself and told myself [drugs] weren’t bad for me, and that they don’t affect you, but they do.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the short term effects of cocaine are increased irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, and paranoia—even a full-blown psychosis, in which thought and emotions are so impaired that all contact is lost with reality. Cocaine users, like Sebert, lose their appetite and experience  weight loss and malnourishment.

Health class is not the only place teenagers learn about drugs. The media constantly desensitized kids and teenagers to drugs. The question of whether celebrities should live a clean life because they are role models or have the right to live out their days just as anyone else would is constantly debated.

The decisions celebrities make still influence the decisions teenagers make, whether or not one believes celebrities should be rolemodels.

“I do not believe celebrities should be role models. I think that they become role models because they are always in the news and people watch what they do and say.  It is not a realistic way of life,” Michele Burnett, Prospect health teacher, said.

“Celebrities in movies make drug abuse look not-damaging,” Sebert said. “They show some hot guy with a hot chick doing hard drugs, and they really don’t show any of the negative effects of them.”

Sebert finds that the media doesn’t accurately portray drug use. They glorify everything about it, including actual celebrities’ deaths like recently deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman.

“[Teenagers] see musicians and actors make lots of money and be successful.  They do not see the down side or negative sides of their use.  They only see the good,” Burnett said.

The problem with glorifying celebrities’ usage is that teenagers idolize them.

Dr. Jay Kyp-Johnson, the school psychologist, believes that celebrities negatively affect the society in which teenagers live.

“We have a really confused culture. Even our president makes a stupid statement of how he thinks marijuana is probably no worse than alcohol,” Kyp-Johnson said. “He has no idea. He has never seen the stats on it; he doesn’t understand any of the chemistry behind it. He could be completely wrong. A statement like that is supposed to be made by the medical community.”

He believes people should be learning from all the talented people that have fallen victim to drug abuse instead of eulogizing the poisons.

“You’d think, ‘Oh God, there is another shooting star that just burned out,” and people would go, ‘Oh, I get it. Stay off of drugs,’” Kyp-Johnson said. “But it just doesn’t seem to go that way.”

*Name changed for confidentiality

For an interactive timeline of celebrity deaths caused by drugs… click here.