Staff Editorial: Negative reactions caused by celebrity drug overdoses

By Duke Staff

It is always a somber moment when we discover someone has died, despite the relation or lack thereof. However, would one be mourned or remembered in the same way if a needle and 70 bags of heroin were involved?

As details of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final hours emerged, the first remorseful moment the internet generated was dulled down to a buzz by the end of the week. A trend has formed among celebrity deaths that involve drug overdoses and the public’s perception of the events. Whether it be Heath Ledger years ago, Cory Monteith over the summer or Hoffman last week, the topics of depression, alcohol or drug abuse are a growing problem that shouldn’t require the death of a celebrity to spawn attention.

In the past, when a celebrity died due to a dangerous addiction, reactions from the public usually take three forms: ignore, dismiss or justify. Ignoring the way in which a celebrity passed and merely paying tribute to their work leaves out an important element of the story. Focusing on the addiction and dismissing the celebrity’s work causes a reversed reaction, which is also an incorrect approach.  Lastly, justifying a celebrities habits or making an excuse for them could be considered even worse, because justifying an example of drug addiction can only encourage the people of our society to go down similar paths.

Celebrities are not the only people who are susceptible to drug-related deaths. Every day people are suffering from some form of addiction and being on the A-List isn’t a “Get out of Jail Free Card.”

Instead we at The Duke believe that the glamorization of horrendous social issues shouldn’t be the focal point but instead treated as a public health issue that needs to be addressed.

Let’s face it, with the Oscars approaching and Hoffman’s role in cinema, it is safe to assume that a dedication or appreciation for the talented actor will ensue. Instead of continuing the trend of justification, or down right ignoring how the man died, Hollywood could take this opportunity to highlight the issue at hand in the form of a public service announcement or maybe even other celebrities acknowledging this epidemic.

On the flip side, local government, schools or everyday citizens like you or I need to make this issue a topic of discussion as well, regardless if it is affecting someone we know or not. The answer to the age old riddle “If a tree falls in a forest will it make a sound?” needs to be yes if that tree is an innocent life.