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Reader Response: The Different Story of Celebrity Overdoses


Some of you will remember, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died from a heroin overdose in February 2014.

I wrote about his death, expressing my sorrow (especially because he’d been doing so well, or seemed to be, last year), and it sparked an interesting conversation about how we react to celebrity drug overdoses compared to how we react to “Regular Joe” overdoses.

(By “we,” I mean the public — not the media.)

One comment that struck a particular chord with me was from RPMcMurphy:

I have a hard time feeling sorry for Mr. Hoffman. There are tragic deaths from drug overdoses every day yet we don’t seem to get upset over all of those. Many of them are people who are struggling with a mental illness in addition to their addiction, but our society has a tendency to just label them as addicts with a negative connotation. When it comes to celebrity overdoses we see a different story. It all comes down to how good your publicist is and Hollywood types have publicists and other addicts do not.

For all intents and purposes, RPMcMurphy is correct. We tend to treat celebrity overdoses more kindly (for lack of a better word) than we do “everyday overdoses”; yet, so many drug addictions and subsequent overdoses — no matter who you are — are due to mental illness and lack of treatment.

So, why do we mourn celebrities but snub everyday people?

Is RPMcMurphy right? Is it because they have good publicists?

Do we feel more pity for them because we feel like we “know” them? Do we feel less pity for the general public because we feel like they should be stronger? Know better? Shouldn’t have gotten in that situation in the first place?

What are your thoughts? Why do YOU think we react differently to celebrity drug overdoses?

Reader Response: The Different Story of Celebrity Overdoses

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind, Unleash Your Creativity, and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2014). Reader Response: The Different Story of Celebrity Overdoses. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Mar 2014
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