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Charlie Sheen and the media's double standard on drugs

Charlie Sheen's history of drug abuse is a source of fascination (and profits) for the media. Would he be as popular with reporters if he were often drunk in public?

By Clayton Jones / March 9, 2011

Charlie Sheen enters a courthouse last August for sentencing in his domestic abuse case. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault on his wife. In return, prosecutors dropped a felony charge, clearing the way for rehab plus probation and anger management classes.

(Credit: rg1/ZUMA Press/Newscom)

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Media fascination with Charlie Sheen would quickly fall off if his personal antics in public were caused by drunkenness.

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Over the years, American culture has developed a certain social stigma against drunkenness. It is no longer funny or cool. Then why are tabloid newspapers and TV celebrity shows so comfortable in playing up Mr. Sheen’s experiences with drugs?

Perhaps this double standard can be explained by the success of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The activist group was started by Candy Lightner in 1980 after her daughter was killed by a repeat drunk-driving offender. MADD has been the leader in creating legal and social condemnation of public drunkenness, especially when it harms others in driving accidents. State laws against drunk driving have gotten tougher as a result of MADD’s heart-felt campaign.

Yet the near-glorification of drug use by some media – perhaps to help legalize certain drugs such as pot – continues. Mr. Sheen’s past drug problems are regularly reported as almost normal for a TV or film star. And the media often leaves out the consequences to others, such as a history of physical abuse to women by the former star of Two and a Half Men.

Sheen has sought help for his personal problems in the past, and probably needs to do so again to regain his Hollywood career. But is there also such a thing as rehab for media journalists addicted to druggy stars?

And perhaps the victims of drugged-out stars can start an organization like MADD to eventually bring a strong measure of shame to an equally dangerous activity.

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