Could Celebrities Use Their Influence to Help Address the Drug Problem?

Red carpet closeup shot.

Everyone loves celebrities. Our interest and excitement in who they are and what they do are what makes them celebrities.

For all their financial wealth and all their skill in their chosen fields, a celebrity would not be a celebrity if it were not for their publicity, for the adoration of their fans, and for the considerable amount of public attention that they garner on a regular basis.

We might not always realize it, but celebrities (with all of their charisma, wealth, public presence, and connections) possess the ability to make real changes in areas that they feel strongly about. Several celebrities already work hard at supporting, funding, even starting campaigns in various humanitarian, environmental, educational, criminal, or political issues that hit home for them.

But what if we could get several of these award-winning men and women united behind one, highly-purposeful cause? What if we could get several celebrities working on tackling and reducing the drug addiction epidemic that our society is mired in? Could they make progress for the better as a united group?

Money Is Only Half of It— Strong PR and the Media Are the Building Blocks for a Great Movement

Let’s take a moment and examine the sheer scope of our nation’s annual charitable contributions. According to Forbes, just the top ten most charitable contributions alone for 2016 came to 4.3 billion dollars. 2017 saw a whopping 10.2 billion donated from the top ten—more than double the previous year’s sum.

The drug problem might take tens of billions of dollars to address, but if we could focus a considerable amount of our charitable and physical efforts as a group towards this problem, we would make a real change in it.

Let’s not forget that celebrities are persons who possess great wealth. And wealth is only the first half of the overall power that celebrities have to create positive change. Perhaps even more important than the money are the connections and public image that celebrities have.

Many people have acquired far more wealth than celebrities, but we don’t always know who they are. When it comes to making a difference, having a name and a face that half the world recognizes is just as valuable as a net worth in the hundreds of millions—and celebrities often have both.

Celebrities Are Already Incredibly Charitable with Their Money

They say money talks, and with celebrities, it talks a lot. Celebrities could use their public image, their media connections, and their PR networks to raise awareness of the drug issue, and to create real campaigns against it. And as an added bonus, they can help fund those campaigns, too.

Insider magazine highlighted some of the celebrities who donated in huge amounts, who donated considerably in proportion to their income, and who have been donating consistently over time. While not all of their efforts were connected to the addiction crisis, their contributions and hard work are still exemplary.

“You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.”
Author J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling
  • Author J.K. Rowling donated $160 million dollars to charity, falling off the Forbes billionaire list and feeling great about it in the process. “You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently,” she said.
  • Musician Elton John has been funding campaigns and foundations to fight the HIV/AIDS crisis for almost a quarter of a century. Elton has given more than $38 million in this endeavor, and he even opened his own foundation for just this purpose. The HIV/AIDS crisis ties in closely with the drug crisis, as intravenous drug use is one of the major contributors in the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey
  • Oprah Winfrey, a billionaire philanthropist, has donated tens of millions of dollars to multiple charities. In 2007, she donated more than $50 million to programs for education, advocacy for women and children, and health care.
  • The late George Michael, iconic British celebrity, donated millions of dollars to help children who suffered from traumatic experiences, another cause that walks a close path to the drug crisis. Many children are traumatized by the drug crisis. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, twelve percent of children in the U.S. live in a household with at least one parent who misuses drugs or alcohol.
  • Musician John Legend funded and founded the FREEAMERICA campaign. This campaign aims to transform the American criminal justice system, a system which constantly marginalizes and stereotypes drug addicts as criminals, throwing them into jail cells instead of treating them for their addictions at qualified treatment centers.

Success Stories of Celebrities Who Made a Difference on the Drug Scene

The above list shows us just a hint at the capability of famous persons to make real change with their tools of wealth and considerable public station. Other celebrities have gone out of their way to support treatment for drug habits specifically.

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
  • Musician Eric Clapton founded the Crossroads Centre Antigua, a drug and alcohol treatment center in the Caribbean.
  • Actor Ted Danson co-founded the Angels at Risk charity. The charity’s mission is to address drug and alcohol addiction among young people, with one of the primary goals being to create better parent-teen communication to prevent drug use from becoming a problem in the first place.
  • The music band Dropkick Murphys started the Claddagh Fund, a fund which supports the Gavin House and the Cushing House, both of which are addiction treatment centers in Boston.
Kate Middleton
Kate Middleton
  • Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, is a royal patron to the charity Action on Addiction. Action on Addiction funds research into the causes of addiction, as well as ways and means of preventing addiction.
  • Mike Conley, Jr, professional athlete for the Memphis Grizzlies, works with Natural High, a charity group with the mission of educating teens and adolescents about the dangers of drug use.

Clearly, celebrities are already doing a lot, but could they be doing more, and could they unite in this goal? They have the funding potential. They have the media connections, the PR, and the position of opinion leaders in our society.

It might be a totally utopian, idealist, optimistic view of mine, but I see a world where famous people, anyone who has wealth, massive PR connections, and a considerable public image, can work together to combat addiction, a problem that many consider to be the fastest growing health crisis in our nation.


Reviewed and edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RES, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.