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Addiction in the Entertainment Industry

2 min read · 3 sections

Prevalence of Addiction Within the Entertainment Industry

We’ve all heard the stories of celebrities getting arrested or going to rehab for substance abuse. But is addiction as widespread among entertainers as we are led on to believe? We can get some answers from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, who in 2015 released a report detailing higher rates of substance abuse within the entertainment industry when compared to several other industry categories.1 Some of the study findings related to workers within the arts and entertainment industry include:

  • 11.5% of workers reported past month heavy alcohol use compared to 8.7% of all surveyed workers (3rd highest total of all listed industries)
  • 13.7% of workers reported past month illicit drug use compared to 8.6% of all surveyed workers (2nd highest total of all listed industries)
  • 12.9% of workers reported past year drug or alcohol dependence compared to 9.5% of all surveyed workers (3rd highest total of all listed industries)

We can also get an idea of the impact of substance abuse on entertainers by taking a look at celebrities who have succumbed to their addictions. A 2016 study, published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, examined nearly 300 celebrities who died by drug overdose between 1970 and 2015.2 The rate of drug-related celebrity deaths has nearly doubled in the 21st century, with a significant increase of prescription opioid involvement. More than half of the celebrities included in this study were from the entertainment industry. The breakdown of the professions of these celebrities includes:

  • Musician (38.6%)
  • Actor (23.2%)
  • Athlete (15.5%)
  • Artist (6.4%)
  • Writer (5.5%)
  • Model (5%)
  • Business (4.5%)
  • Politician (1.4%)

The study also found that among all actors who died from drug-related causes, 13.7% were from the pornographic film industry.2 This finding supports results from previous studies that also found an increased likelihood for drug abuse among male and female porn actors.3-4

Factors Influencing Addiction in the Entertainment Industry

Although individuals within the entertainment industry do suffer from substance abuse at a higher rate than most, this is not simply due to them being a celebrity. In fact, there is no single cause that has been directly linked to the development of a substance use disorder. Rather, substance abuse results from a combination of risk factors that increase the probability of an individual developing a disorder.

The most important risk factor is a family history of substance abuse, which accounts for about half of one’s predisposition to addiction.5 Lifestyle factors also contribute to the risk for addiction.6 Factors like significant stress (such as stage fright and pressures of show business), peer pressure, competition, and exposure to alcohol or drugs are all commonplace within the entertainment industry and may help to explain the high rate of substance abuse among celebrities.

Treatment Options

The glamorization of substance abuse is a serious problem in the entertainment industry. Although the media may indulge on the hard-partying lifestyle of celebrities, in reality many of these individuals are in dire need of help. Celebrities may need to undergo special alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs to properly address their addictions.

Treatment services at a private facility offering confidentiality and personalized care is recommended, as this allows entertainers to receive the care they need without the added stress of continued scrutiny under the public’s eye. Trained professionals at these centers understand the unique struggles of celebrities battling addiction and will devise personalized treatments that will guide them to a healthy and long-term recovery.


  1. Bush, D.M., & Lipari, R.N. (2015). Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder by Industry.
  2. Just, J.M., Bleckwenn, M., Schnakenberg, R., Skatulla, P., & Weckbecker, K. (2016). Drug-related celebrity deaths: A cross-sectional study. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 11(1), 40.
  3. Griffith, J.D., Mitchell, S., Hammond, B., Gu, L.L., & Hart, C.L. (2012). A comparison of sexual behaviors and attitudes, self-esteem, quality of life, and drug use among pornography actors and a matched sample. International Journal of Sexual Health, 24(4), 254–266.
  4. Griffith, J.D., Mitchell, S., Hart, C.L., Adams, L.T., & Gu, L.L. (2013). Pornography actresses: an assessment of the damaged goods hypothesis. Journal of Sex Research, 50(7), 621–632.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Genetics and Epigenetics of Addiction.
  6. Vink, J.M. (2016). Genetics of Addiction: Future Focus on Gene × Environment Interaction? Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77(5), 684-687.
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