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Has the Media Caused Societies View on Alcoholism to Change?

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Recently the Los Angeles Times posted an article explaining that alcoholism has increased in the last 60 years. The article says that people in North America born after World War II are more prone to have drinking problems. While the numbers may prove this point, could it also be a result of America’s more modern acceptance of addiction?

Alcohol has been beloved as a spiritual, medicinal and social lubricant for centuries. Many of our favorite artists and writers throughout history were notorious for their torrid relationship with alcohol and drugs. Is alcoholism really rising among us or are we just more aware of the problem today? Before 1935 drug addicts and alcoholics were thrown into jails, hospitals and mental institutions. When AA was founded alcoholics had a place to go find recovery where they were once deemed hopeless. In 1982 Betty Ford co-founded the Betty Ford Center for the rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics. Betty Ford’s own struggle with alcoholism helped bring a face and a voice to the illness. Although many celebrities have suffered alcoholism and drug addiction on a public level, it seems that in the past decade our society seems to be fascinated by the affliction.

With the rise of reality programs depicting addiction and the celebrity tell all interviews, alcoholism and addiction are no longer the taboo they once were. While alcohol and drug related deaths among celebrities are nothing new in the media, TV shows like Intervention have showcased the gritty details of the disease among everyday people. Most people today are aware that alcoholism affects people from all walks of life. The good news is that alcoholism and addiction are no longer looked at as a problem affecting degenerates and hobos. Instead we have respected celebrities such as Jane Lynch penning a tell all about her struggle with alcohol. As well as Robert Downey Jr. who had his own battle with addiction right before our very eyes for most of the 90’s. He later gave us a vision of hope when he overcame the disorder.

With the rise in awareness of substance abuse, other disorders pertaining to behavioral addictions such as sex and gambling have come to light. While sex addiction is widely recognized as a real addiction, some celebrities have left people wondering if they are merely relying on the disorder as an excuse to defend their illicit affairs. The TV show My Strange Addiction tells the story of people suffering from more obscure behavioral addictions such as eating laundry detergent and thumb sucking. Some have scoffed at the validity of these addictions commenting that these people may have other mental disorders or might simply just want to be on TV. Others have raised issues with Dr. Drew’s TV shows that seem to capitalize off the suffering alcoholic and addict. America watches D-List celebrities struggle through detox, drug rehab and early sobriety. These are all painful and often ugly moments of an addict’s life.

Is it fair to make entertainment out of addiction or does it help bring the illness into greater acceptance and understanding? While Dr. Drew may have the purest of intentions in his pursuit to treat addicts and alcoholics, others blatantly chase fame. Earlier this year Michael Salahi who you may know from the Real Housewives of DC and also for crashing a White House State Dinner back in 2009 submitted herself for Celebrity Rehab. Let’s be honest, this woman probably has an attention seeking problem. It was soon discovered that she did not have a drug or alcohol problem but was looking to slip in to treat her multiple sclerosis.

Not everyone will be affected by drug addiction or alcoholism in their lifetime, but it is important for those that are affected to have resources and information available to help in treatment. Just like any other illness education and understanding is key. Whether or not the producers of addiction based shows are looking to make a profit off other people’s suffering or to spread the work about our nation’s epidemic, the message is clear: addiction can affect anyone.

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Filed under: Addiction · Tags: Addiction, alcoholic, Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism, behavioral addiction, Betty Ford Treatment Center, Celebrity Drug Addiction, Celebrity Rehab, Dr Drew, drug addiction, Jane Lynch Alcoholism, process addiction, Robert Downey Jr Drug addiction, sex addiction