It’s easy to think of Hollywood, California, as a mythical place where dreams are born and creativity flourishes. Everyone has seen the palm-lined streets, the well-lit Hollywood sign, and other iconic features of the city in movies, television shows, and print advertising. Even people who have never set foot in California can feel as though they know Hollywood.
But Hollywood isn’t a dream. It’s a neighborhood in central Los Angeles that’s home to about 77,000 people, according to estimates from the L.A. Department of City Planning. Each of these people have their own hopes and dreams, and they’re very much real and not a fantasy.
Hollywood has its share of difficulties, as do most other large cities. One major issue in Hollywood involves addiction. Thankfully, there are many community resources within Hollywood that can help people find recovery.
The Scope of Drug Abuse in Hollywood
One way to understand how serious a community drug abuse problem is involves looking at drug experimentation rates in young people. Those teenagers who begin a relationship with drugs may become adults who also use and abuse drugs. Seeing how many teens abuse drugs now can help addiction experts prepare for upcoming addiction rates.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, addiction rates among California adolescents are similar to, or lower than, those seen in the rest of the country. In 2015, for example, 5% of California teens abused pain relievers, as did 5% of teens nationwide. Statistics like this seem to suggest that Hollywood isn’t an outlier in terms of addiction rates. But Hollywood has a special relationship with abuse and addiction that might not be reflected in this particular set of statistics.
In an article published by History, authors discuss a studio system from the early days of Hollywood that would provide young actors and actresses with “pep pills” to keep them awake during grueling shoots of movies. The shoots would last for 24–36 hours, and the actors would be required to stay on set the entire time. The way to stay awake for that long period was to use pills, and sometimes, the actors weren’t aware of what was in the pills they were taking.
Similarly, some studios offered actresses a different type of shot in order to speed up metabolism and keep weight off. It’s not entirely clear what was in these shots, but it’s reasonable to assume that they contained a mix of amphetamines. Repeated use of drugs like this could easily lead to dependence and/or addiction.
Thankfully, people in creative fields have much more control in today’s studio system. If they were asked to take a pill or accept a shot, they could call lawyers or public health advocates and get advice and support. They have more options and often have more control, so they’re not required to simply follow orders from a studio boss. But that doesn’t mean the addiction issue has disappeared, and in some cases, it might be worse now than it was before.
In the old system, studio bosses might work hard to ensure that nothing unsavory appears in the press. That could mean that addictions could be buried due to the influence of studio power. Stars would not be able to engage in behavior the studio doesn’t condone. As Fox News points out, modern stars have no such shields. They’re followed from place to place by attention-seekers and paparazzi, any of whom could offer drugs. Any slip could be fodder for bloggers or news sites, which could cause a spiral back into drug use.
It’s difficult to know exactly which drugs are popular in Hollywood, as these statistics aren’t commonly broken down by such small geographic areas. But a piece from ABC News suggests that cocaine could be appealing to Hollywood creatives who need to keep working despite long, grueling schedules. Heroin might also hold appeal as it allows stressed people to escape from reality for a short period of time.
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The Role of Mental Health
Addictions often develop through a complex interplay of genetics, habit, availability, and mental health. An underlying mental health issue could be a little like the gateway to drug abuse. The mental health challenge, if left untreated, can seem to call out for some kind of solution. For some people, that solution seems to take the form of drug abuse.
For example, someone with depression may experience very low energy on a daily basis. Someone like this may struggle to handle normal tasks, such as getting out of bed or putting on clothes. Each task seems meaningless, and it’s difficult to rouse the energy required to take all of these steps. It may seem easier to stay in bed.
A drug like heroin could seem like a good solution to someone like this. The drug boosts endorphin levels within the brain, and that can bring about a sense of peace or even euphoria. For someone struggling to find a moment of joy in the day, being washed with a sense of euphoria from a shot of heroin can seem like an amazing gift. That drug could help the person feel capable of finally leaving the house.
About 1 out of every 20 adults in California has a serious mental issue that makes dealing with life issues difficult, says the California HealthCare Foundation. This means a large number of adults within the state are dealing with mental health challenges that could, in theory, leave them susceptible to drug abuse and drug addiction.
Getting help for those issues could be a challenge. As an article in the Huffington Post points out, celebrities who live in Hollywood may not face a formal penalty for abusing drugs. While someone who is lower on the economic latter may face loss of a job or loss of opportunities due to drug abuse, someone at the height of creative powers may stand to lose little that can’t be replaced in time. Any penalties they face may be overcome with money, legal help, and time. That could leave them feeling as though the addiction isn’t serious enough to address.
Addiction Resources in Hollywood
Overcoming inertia is a crucial part of the recovery process. When people see that their addictions are holding them back, they can begin to think about what life might be like without the influence of drugs. That little flicker of hope can be fanned into a flame of strength that can carry them through the recovery process.
Getting started may be personal, but recovery is easier when it’s supported by a team. Professionals can help to illuminate how addictions are born and how they grow, and they can offer tools and techniques that can help people to achieve long-term recovery.
There are several such professional organizations in and close to Hollywood. For example, McIntyre House is a nonprofit recovery home designed for men who need assistance with alcoholism and drug addiction. The program combines one-on-one therapy, group therapy, 12-step support groups, and more to support men who need to move past an addiction issue and into active recovery. People who enroll in this program are expected to move into the house and stay there for several weeks, so they have around-the-clock support.
There are also literally hundreds of private therapists in the Hollywood area who can offer individual counseling for addiction. Some of these therapists also offer group counseling sessions, which allow people with addictions to connect with and learn from peers. Some offer hospitalization options for people who need additional supervision during the early days of the recovery and medical detox process.
Ongoing Addiction Support
Just as each addiction is personal, so is each path to recovery. In most cases, people benefit from ongoing support from a community of peers, and they may need that support for months or even years after the formal treatment program is complete. Support group meetings in the 12-step model can help.
In meetings that follow a 12-step format, people have the opportunity to share stories of challenges. They have the chance to listen to other people talk about their addictions. They connect with people struggling with the same sort of urges and habits, and they’re supported by ongoing learning that can help them to keep growing in sobriety. For many people, it’s the community and connection available in these meetings that make them so valuable. They become a way of life.
The West Hollywood Recovery Center offers a meeting place for 12-step groups, including those that are designed to address specific kinds of addictions. Meetings are held at a variety of different times throughout the day to accommodate different schedules. There’s never a charge to attend a meeting.