Unusually, perhaps, for somebody involved in journalism for 30 years, and showbiz journalism for more than half of that time, I have never done “hard” drugs.
I’ve certainly consumed a bit more alcohol than I should’ve, and inhaled something I perhaps shouldn’t have, but I’ve drawn the line at doing a line or injecting something into my veins that wasn’t prescribed by a doctor.
Some might say that’s an experience missed, but I prefer to think of it as a lucky escape. As a former girlfriend once said, why use something that might kill you on the first occasion (as cocaine, and many other drugs, certainly can) unless you absolutely have to?
At the risk of appearing to be “holier than thou” here, I want to make a point or two about the abuse of hard drugs, especially in the music industry. I want to make it clear that the following does not apply to everyone, or even a majority of people, in showbiz. But it does apply to a hell of a lot of them.
Over many years of writing about popular music, and hanging about on its fringes, the one thing that has really made me angry is the continuing casual attitude towards the use of hard drugs — despite the number of good, talented people who have died, or have been greatly diminished, by the uncontrolled use of drugs.
With so many great artists lost to the abuse of heroin, cocaine and their ilk, you might think that the industry would actively discourage the activity, participate enthusiastically in programs to rehabilitate drug users, and take great efforts to counsel potential addicts.
Instead, I’ve known of record company employees who’ve been tasked with scoring for the stars and very senior personnel at very big companies who’ve turned a blind eye while laws that could have them jailed are willfully and persistently broken. As an editor, I’ve had to counsel contributors for encouraging drug use in articles submitted for publication in a “family” newspaper.
You may say that people be free to do what they like, even if it hurts them — and I might even agree with you. But when you look at the industrial scale of drug use in showbiz, and the fact that stars are among the greatest influencers of young people, then maybe you’ll think again,
You may ask: why is it worse to buy and consume drugs than alcohol or cigarettes, which are also bad for your health? Because buying drugs puts money directly into the hands of criminals, while buying legal products at least puts it into the real economy where the people who make the goods get paid (admittedly sometimes not a lot or even enough) and the companies employing them pay taxes and duties (often at a very high rate) that go into a pool that’s spent on the whole community. They may be killers, but at least the producers of booze and tobacco put something back — and they are required to offer warnings about the use of their product, making it harder and harder for them to do business. Oh, and branded, legal products are almost always free from deadly impurities, which is often not the case with drugs bought on street corners or handed around at gigs and parties.
When a celeb gives endorsement by example to the illegal drug trade, they are supporting the exploitation of everyone from impoverished poppy growers and families in third-world countries (who live under the cruel exploitation of drug lords who use kidnapping and murder to further their business aims), to hapless drug mules (who can wind up being jailed or executed for their crimes) and users who can end up on guerneys in emergency rooms or slabs in hospital mortuaries. The only people they benefit are the criminals they make richer.
Occasionally, some of the worst abusers in the music world will put some small effort into a charity single or concert, perhaps to assuage their guilt for not being better persons.
If celebs they put their considerable wealth into buying legitimate products and services — be they yachts, cars, first-class airfares, stays at seven-star hotels or whatever — they are, at least, doing something for the rest of us thanks to the (imperfect) laws of trickle-down economics. By spending vast amounts of money on drugs, they are simply being selfish idiots who are doing more harm than good, no matter what they say when the cameras are on.
Here endeth the sermon.