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The Unfortunate Stigma Surrounding Substance Abuse

This past Sunday, the artist Juice WRLD passed away at Chicago’s Midway Airport at the age of 21. I’m sure everyone who has any form of social media had tributes coming onto their Instagram and Snapchat stories every hour. Personally, I didn’t know too much of Juice WRLD’s music; however, I found myself upset that yet another young musician passed away. The idea of an artist no longer being able to contribute their work into society makes me feel a unique sort of sadness, no matter if I am familiar with their work or not. 

However, this sadness rapidly turned to frustration when I began to read more articles and news reports on the “theories” of Juice WRLD’s death. There were reports villainizing the rapper based on suspected drug charges and Twitter threads about how he actually faked his death. Ultimately, these stories removed the humanity of a young man’s death. Later in the week, it was confirmed that Juice WRLD had, in fact, died due to a toxic combination of drugs. However, the news stories chose to focus on the illegality of the drugs he consumed rather than focusing on the success he had as an artist. Substance abuse is not an issue exclusive to celebrities; yet, when a celebrity dies from it, the media often belittles their death by coming up with titles like: “X’s Death was Confirmed an Overdose,” or “Ten Prescription Bottles Found in X’s Apartment.” 

The idea that a death by drug or alcohol abuse holds less meaning unfortunately taints the minds of those who are reading the media. This makes me extremely upset because each and every celebrity is a human being, just like us, and are just as likely to suffer from the disease of addiction. What most forget about when they categorize celebrities as junkies or fault their “irresponsibility” for their death, is that these celebrities have families and friends, all of whom are in pain. 

A family friend of mine developed her Heroin addiction after a teammates’ mother gave her prescription painkillers when she broke her arm on the soccer field. What seemed like a kind gesture on behalf of the teammate’s mother became an ongoing addiction for this family friend. Now, at the age of 25, she has overdosed on Heroin twice and has been admitted into rehab three times. While her addiction has arguably impacted her the “most,” those closest to her are also in extreme pain. The “punch in the gut feeling” when you get a phone call that your child is in the hospital due to an overdose cannot be exclusive to the family members of a non-celebrity. So why are we so harsh on celebrities for their drug-addiction when their family is already in enough pain? 

Unfortunately, Juice WRLD is not the first to have his tragic passing belittled due to substance abuse. A recent list of celebrities whose deaths have become the examples for substance abuse include:

  1. Amy Winehouse 

  2. Mac Miller 

  3. Prince 

  4. Dolores O’Riordan 

  5. Juice WRLD

Instead of leaving this list of names as those who were victims of the disease of addiction, I am going to link some of their greatest work. While their deaths were certainly tragic, they should be remembered for so much more than the reason for deaths. 

  1. Valerie” by Amy Winehouse

  2. Mac Miller’s Tiny Desk Concert

  3. Purple Rain” by Prince

  4. Dreams” by The Cranberries

  5. Lucid Dreams” by Juice WRLD


Photos: 1, 2, 3 


Tricia Moriarty

Notre Dame '22

Hi! My name is Tricia and I'm a part of the class of 2022 at the University of Notre Dame! I am so excited to take on the role of Editor-in- Chief for Notre Dame's talented and growing network of writers. I am studying Sociology and Pre-Medical studies and LOVE to write. My goal for the future is to work in Geriatric Medicine. When I'm not in South Bend, you can find me in Old Lyme, Connecticut. In my free time, I enjoy exploring new music on Spotify, re-watching Sex and The City or The Mindy Project, cheering on the Irish football team and paddleboarding.
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