Hello SBB readers. A few years ago, I did a blog post on the death of Michael Jackson—the pop star who seemed to have it all … but who succumbed to a death related to drug abuse. It was a sad tale about a child star who seemed to have grown up without a normal childhood—whose wealth did not protect him from the dangers of drugs. There have been others—Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger—we could go on and on.
So when Internet-sensation-turned-pop-star Justin Bieber was arrested this week on DUI charges, many of us who keep an eye on these things were saddened by the news. A young man who had everything going for him—who could have been a terrific role model for other teens—seems to instead have chosen a path to self-destruction. Arrested while street racing in a Lamborghini, the star admitted to police in Florida that he had been drinking, smoking marijuana, and taking prescription drugs all at the same time … and then got behind the wheel of a very fast car! Can you imagine? Mixing drugs and alcohol while street racing? This is behavior that turns your car into a dangerous weapon, and people could have been killed, including Bieber himself.
We do not know all the facts of the case—nor have we heard how Bieber will defend what he did—but those of us in the public health world hope that this incident will be a warning to all teens. Being a famous star does not protect you from the dangers of drugs and alcohol—it does not protect you from making stupid decisions. In fact, being a famous star can make you feel invincible—as if you are smarter than everyone else and can even outsmart the drugs you are using. And if you have ever envied someone like Bieber, remember that it is he who should envy all of you who make healthy choices every day, despite all the social pressure.
At NIDA, we will now be handling calls that come into the press office from reporters wanting to know more about mixing alcohol and drugs, or about drugged driving. Bieber’s sad situation will hopefully raise awareness that no one is safe from the dangers of drug abuse. Of course, Bieber deserves a defense, and we will watch what happens with his case. We do hope that if he does need treatment for substance abuse that he is man enough to seek it. Treatment does work—we see it every day. We also know that asking for treatment takes courage and character. How Bieber responds to these charges, and how he seeks to improve his personal situation, will be a test of that character. Maybe then he could truly become a role model of courage.
For more on drugged driving, check out this fact sheet.