Dear Jody and Cindy,

Are child actors more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than the general public or do we just hear about them more because they are famous?

Dad of 2, Sherman Oaks, CA

Child actors tend to be exposed earlier to drugs and alcohol due to the abundance and accessibility of substances in the Industry. They experience pressures unique to the business such as constant rejection, jealousy, feelings of not being good enough, excessive amounts of money and scrutiny of their appearance, emotional instability and failure; obsessive thinking, and strained personal relationships.

By being a part of a fast-paced lifestyle there may be a loss of innocence which can be replaced by a persona of maturity. Children often miss positive age-appropriate experiences. A belief begins to develop in the child and sometimes in the adults around them that they are capable of making decisions or choices beyond their years.

Due to these stressors, it is more likely for a young actor to abuse drugs, alcohol, and sex, and participate in other impulsive and dangerous behaviors.

Parents, pay attention to any emotional or behavioral changes that seem out of the norm. Remember, these changes may progress slowly over time or quickly and abruptly.

Look for the following signs:

  • Agitation or depression
  • Impulsivity or reactivity
  • Anger or irritability
  • Anxiety or manic like behavior
  • Sleeping a lot
  • Staying up all night
  • Mood swings
  • Closed off, lying, secrets
  • Change of friends
  • Grades go down
  • Distancing from family

If you begin to see changes that concern you, seek out professional help before it gets out of control.

Contributors Jody Frank and Cindy Busto are Licensed Clinical Social Workers, and the directors of West Coast Counseling Center. To contact the center, please call 310-475-0223 ext.2#/3#, or visit their web site at www. wcccla.com