The Glamorization of Heroin

Celebrities and popular culture in society have glamorized the deadly drug heroin today.

The status of heroin in America today is that the drug is “in.” Advertisements in magazines and television are displaying gaunt, extremely thin, glassy-eyed, pale faced models. This look of death is often found in Calvin Klein ads or even in Packard-Bell commercials. For over three decades now, powerful role models from music to movies have taken to heroin like pigs take to slop. The drug continues to be portrayed in a favorable light by the fashion, music, and entertainment industries. Mixed messages about heroin are everywhere from raccoon eyed models to songs such as “Heroin Girl” by Everclear. Rock musicians have created and celebrated a culture of heroin, and some have become role models in their death.

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The use of heroin is increasing in almost every part of the United States. All age groups are all over the drug, including high school and middle school students. What doesn’t help is that the availability of heroin has increased as well. New sources and networks of distribution have been reported. The comeback of heroin is not only apparent in the inner cities; it has been making its way to suburban life as well.

Another way to tell that the use of heroin is on the rise is by the number of emergency room visits that deal with heroin users. In 1990 there was 33,000 emergency department visits nationally where heroin use was involved. By the year 1995 the number had more than doubled to 76,000. In the mid-1980’s about ten percent of patient population was identified as being IV drug users. Now, the number is up to about twenty percent. (Source # 4, Gabor Kelen, Professor of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine and director of Hopkins Emergency room).

What are the causes of this heroin obsession? Some say it could Hollywood’s apparent fascination with the drug. Heroin has been a theme in several recent movies. From Trainspotting, to The Basketball Diaries, and even greater hits like Pulp Fiction, heroin is the subject matter. People think that since the movie was so great, maybe their life will be great as well.

The “heroin chic” approach taken by photographers is another major cause. Also, all the media attention “heroin chic” gets by the press is a factor causing more people to notice the look of death trend. On May 21, 1997, President Bill Clinton addressed the U.S. Conference of Mayors about the glamorized “heroin chic” look. By making these remarks, press exposure of the heroin chick phenomenon increased. Some people believe that coverage of Clinton’s remarks will bring more attention to the inappropriate glamorization of the extremely dangerous drug. (Source #1, “Heroin Chic”)
The celebrity drug theory states that by observing some of the most famous role models take to heroin, the public receives mixed signals about smack. (Source #2, Mike Field). The list of celebrities that had deaths involving heroin is long and unbelievable. It is unimportant to state names.The important thing is that they have an extremely large influence on the general public. Young people observe musicians and see that heroin seems to be working for them, even though it isn’t. In turn, the young people try to believe and adopt the ‘elegantly wasted’ mystique. The truth is that heroin is and has been destroying the talent of fine performers and breaking up some of the best bands. What do you think the effect is of seeing popular rockers always mixed up with drugs?
Heroin has definitely affected the Boston Music scene. When people speak of music in Boston another image come to mind. There is the image of heroin. It is everywhere that music plays. A number of lives have been taken by heroin in Boston. Only the talented people who died never had time to hit it big yet. Some people ponder over how many great bands might be out there if not for heroin. (Source #2, Mike Field)
The drug also affects people who are smart enough to steer clear of junk. A thirty-three year old named Peter Franklin spoke of parties he would go to with his friends. He says, “They are not like they were before, where someone’s always passing a bong or pumping at the keg. You constantly see people leaving the party or disappearing to the bathroom, and coming back with glassy eyes as if nobody knows. (Source #4, Associated Press)
What does this drug do to aspiring models? Young women see the heroin chic look and think they have to look like that to be a model. Society forces the idea into their nave little heads. Also, heroin is a way for girls to stay thin. It demolishes their appetites, and in turn, they stay a size zero. Sounds like a good deal. Too bad they were fooled.

As yet, there is no clear scientific evidence suggesting what policy or combination of programs is most effective against illicit addictive drugs. There is a nonprofit organization called MusiCares that was formed in 1989 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The goal of MusiCares is to focus industry resources on human services that directly impact the health and welfare of people in the music industry. Musicians can call a phone number and get confidential information about treatment programs, drug counseling, and financial aid. MusiCares tried to work directly with the industry in finding ways to intervene and offer assistance. (Source #3, Roger Caitlin)
There is also a program called the Musicians Assistance Program (MAP). Map is funded by MusiCares. Map is a Los Angeles based intervention rehab program started by ex-heroin addict Buddy Arnold, and a jazz-saxophone player. (Source #3, Roger Caitlin)
Heroin has had a haunting hold on popular culture for quite a few decades now. There is no guarantee that any programs will work. And as celebrities remain America’s greatest source of role models, what really can be done to stop this madness?