The typical image people associate with drug users is someone who is unsuccessful or has struggles in life, said Jack Darkes, assistant professor in the USF psychology department.
That is why Darkes said it is difficult to understand why celebrities resort to drugs.
“It’s more confusing when the user is someone successful who has so much fame,” he said. “We wonder why they’re messing that up with drugs.”
Darkes said it is easy for outsiders to make that observation.
“What we don’t understand is that people who use drugs don’t view (drugs) as negative. Their expectation is that drugs will do good things for them,.” Darkes said.
Whitney Houston’s confession to drug use was the basis of an entire segment with Diane Sawyer. Robert Downey, Jr. admitted that his addiction began when he was eight. Meanwhile, Janis Joplin died of an accidental heroin overdose after years of dabbling with speed and alcohol.
Darkes said celebrities sometimes make these decisions unconsciously. He added that there are certain personality characteristics that cause someone to be more likely to use drugs.
Darkes gave the example of an athlete, someone who is physically gifted.
“He has a personality where he looks for that sensation;, they’re seeking out people who are out there, and they’re more involved with things, so they’re more likely to be involved with drugs,” Darkes said.
Former Washington Wizards player, Chris Weber was arrested and charged with marijuana possession as well as assault and traffic violations in 1998. Former University of Arizona player and guard for the Portland Trailblazers Damon Stoudamire was arrested at Tucson International Airport on July 3 for having marijuana wrapped in aluminum foil in his pocket. It was his third drug arrest in two years. As recently as last month, former Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Darrell Russell was reinstated by the NFL after serving a 1 1/2 season suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Using another example of an athlete, Darkes examined the qualities that make someone successful as a professional football player.
“They must be aggressive, have certain physiological systems, and high testosterone, and these are parts of a personality type that is also frequently involved with self-destructive behaviors, whether it’s sexually or in the drug culture,” Darkes said.
This personality type can manifest itself in many areas of one’s life, Darkes said.
Darkes said there is a bit of a contradiction because some may ask why celebrities do this, but upon further examination, there are a number of noticeable characteristics that predict drug use.
He said actors who are always in the public eye are susceptible to making bad decisions in other areas of their lives.. Darkes said the psychology department conducts tests to measure tendencies in college students.
“We show tendencies to be those who are dis-inhibited, live the party life, are seeking that sensation, always want to do exciting things are more likely to get involved with substance related behaviors,” he said.
“Others may find an acceptable way to get a similar sensation.”
Darkes said skydiving, roller coasters and bungee jumping can create a similar rush to that of drug use, but those behaviors aren’t considered inappropriate.
According to Darkes, substance abuse by people who lead a terrible life already is the substance abuse most people expect.