Celebrity Rehab. Intervention. My Strange Addiction. From Lindsay Lohan’s latest relapse to Charlie Sheen’s coke-fueled capers, addiction has become a buzzword in American culture. Once considered a shameful personality flaw, addiction is now worn like a badge of honor on the sleeves of your favorite reality film stars, rappers and actors...and Americans eat it up.
As much as we feel for their plight, celebrity drug users have it pretty sweet. While regular addicts struggle to afford treatment, has-been stars are paid to appear on shows like Celebrity Rehab, where they receive both treatment for their addictions and exposure for their ailing careers. Those who forego rehab and get caught with drugs receive a slap on the wrist for "crimes" the rest of us would surely be locked up for.
Increasingly, we hear addiction being compared to life-threatening diseases like cancer or diabetes. While Mary doesn't exactly agree with this comparison, if the addiction = disease paradigm works for recovering addicts, I'm all for it. Even NIDA--a government-funded agency--refers to drug addiction as "a complex disease".
The hypocrisy becomes apparent when we observe the way addicts are treated in this country. What other "disease" can cost you your job, prevent you from getting a lifesaving organ transplant and send you to prison with a felony charge? While many "straight" folks argue that addiction is a preventable burden on society, the same could be said for obesity, which cost Americans the equivalent of $92.6 billion in 2002 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Consider that half of those billions were covered by Medicaid and Medicare and you have quite the financial dilemma. The day that we start arresting fat people for possession of Ben & Jerry's is the day I’ll let this issue rest. Until then, we need across-the-board policy change that applies to celebrities and everyday addicts alike.