In our media-hungry society, Americans encounter alcohol and drug use in the media with more frequency than we likely realize. While difficult to quantify, one can only imagine the effects of this exposure on substance abuse. During the 70’s, drug and alcohol abuse reached a peak. Music and social conditions created a social arena ripe for addiction. This was the beginning of the glorification of drug use and the heyday addiction treatment clinic.
Drug Use in Film
Sadly, for many Americans, the image of the wasted junkie has lost its shock value. The frightening images of junkies of movie fame, including Juice and The Basketball Diaries, have been replaced by other nerve-exposing images. Traffic, a blockbuster in the 90’s, provided new scandal for the jaded. In the film, an underage Caucasian girl from a good home is graphically portrayed as the zombie-like conquest of an African-American drug dealer. Her loving parents guide her to drug detox, and hope appears on the horizon for the defiled damsel. Apparently the notion of “little junkie girl” lost was no longer enough to disturb the average American; racial stereotypes and socio-economic terror must join the amalgam for proper shock value.
Double Take: Models or Heroin Addicts?
The wasted figure of the emaciated supermodel peaked during the 90’s, when major fashion designers featured the thin figures of models with dark eye make-up and strung-out poses. This was the beginning of heroin chic, a trend in the fashion industry supporting the glazed-eye look of a junkie. In part due to the rising availability of the drug, the images of addicts were emblazoned upon billboards and bus sides. The decline of this advertising began only when a well-known photographer died of an overdose.
In The Cross-Hairs: Targeting Minors through Marketing
Alcohol manufacturers employ aggressive ad campaigns to target youth under the drinking age. With imagery and music borrowed from Rave culture, several companies offer enticing visuals of fun and popularity among attractive young people. Youth exposure to alcohol advertising occurs because ads are placed around programming that has minors among its largest viewership. Over 40% of minors viewed these ads while watching TV, while most never see the inside of an alcohol rehab center.
Another study shows that up to 20% of teens own clothing advertising alcohol. Disturbingly, the children who participated in the study, which followed the habits and behaviors of minors owning clothing bearing these advertisements, were under the age of 15.
Celebrities and Substance Abuse
Celebrity status and alcohol and drug use is depicted as going hand-in-hand. While some celebs attempt discretion while entering a drug or alcohol rehab center, as often as not, the information is used as a tactic to acquire media attention. In the predatory world of Hollywood glamour, the desperate media strategies employed by managers and celebrities are frequently exquisitely timed. An actor’s public entrance into an alcohol rehabilitation program, for instance, often somehow coincides with a movie premiere. Likewise, this formula can be applied to the music industry, which pairs album release dates with the shocking news of an artist entering a rehab center for assistance with his problem.