The 32-year-old singer Antonella Barba was once known for her voice as she earned her popularity and fame on the show American Idol. Now, she has gained public notice for something entirely different: buying and selling opioids.
On October 11, 2018, American Idol star Antonella Barba was arrested, and her drug charges included possession of fentanyl. Barba will likely spend at least a decade behind bars after she pleaded guilty to possession of at least 400 grams of fentanyl with intent to distribute, and she could also be subject to up to $10 million in fines.
It’s a common story: a talented person succumbs to their struggle with substance abuse. While drug and alcohol misuse are extremely difficult to overcome for anyone, celebrity culture and stressors make substance misuse more common.
Celebrity Drug Culture
It’s very common for celebrities to struggle with drug problems. There’s a certain atmosphere that surrounds celebrities that involves partying, going to nightclubs and using drugs. In most cases, we do not think of celebrity drug culture as being one of drug abuse until a tragedy happens.
Mac Miller’s death, for example, made headlines in 2018 after he died from a drug overdose. Miller purchased what he thought was 30-milligram oxycodone pills, as well as cocaine and Xanax. But the dealer, Cameron Pettit, sold the rapper counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl.
Tragically, Mac Miller’s story is not terribly uncommon. So, given the potential danger and destruction, why do famous people use drugs? There are a few theories.
For celebrities, being under the spotlight all the time and the demand to perform can sometimes be too much. Some famous people might turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Or it might be that, for celebrities, there are fewer consequences for using substances compared to someone who has to take drug tests or cannot use drugs while working. It could also be that performers chase the same rush they get from being in the spotlight, and thus turn to drug use for a similar rush.
Everyone is different, but there is definitely a drug and alcohol culture that continues to plague famous people.
Impact of Celebrity Drug Culture on the Public
Because celebrities and famous people are so visible in public, what they do and the examples they set matter.
Today, with social media bringing celebrities even closer to Americans’ lives, celebrities have even more influence, particularly on young peoples’ drug use behaviors.
Young people look to celebrities and influencers as examples of how to behave and be cool. There is a certain glamour that goes hand-in-hand with famous people, who often feature their own drug and alcohol use alongside their wealth, large homes and expensive cars.
So, young and easily influenced people might associate celebrity drug and alcohol use with the rest of their lifestyle, which they admire. Additionally, the images that famous people put out on social media and in their performances are polished and intentional — they leave out all of the negative consequences that are associated with substance use. As a result, the true face of celebrity drug culture is not revealed.
Additionally, many celebrities like actors and performers take roles in films and movies that show a lot of drug use, even if they are playing everyday people. These representations also may encourage young people to use and further spreads a glamourous, superficial image of drug use.
As anyone who has struggled with substance abuse knows, the real influence of drugs on society is not glamorous. Strained and broken relationships, financial troubles, health crises and losing one’s balance in life can all stem from drug use.
Madani, Doha. “Former ‘American Idol’ contestant pleads guilty to opioid drug ring charges in Virginia.” July 31, 2019. Accessed September 19, 2019.
Tsilimparis, John. “Celebrities and Drug Addiction: A Perfect Storm.” HuffPost, July 24, 2013. Accessed September 19, 2019.
Cordero, Rosy. “Man arrested for allegedly selling Mac Miller fentanyl-laced pills before rapper’s overdose death.” Entertainment Weekly, September 5, 2019. Accessed September 19, 2019.