The loss of Heath Ledger to a drug overdose did not create the outrage in the film industry that it ought to have done. Here was another great talent lost at a young age. Why did it happen and what can be done about it?
Working on a film as an actor is very stressful and tiring. Getting up before dawn every day and working until after sundown is the common practice. Most of what an actor does during these long days is wait around to be called to do his or her takes. Then when finally called, the scenes are shot over and over and over again to get them just right and to cover them from all angles..The acting itself can get quite tedious and tiring. Often stars like Ledger are put into one film after another with little rest in between. And that compounds the problems.
In between films, an up an coming or established star is expected to make the rounds of parties at producers, directors, casting directors and others' homes so they will be seen by all the best people and become someone who will be wanted for one of their next films. Often the actors will be accompanied by other up and coming actors in a sort of 'blind date' situation. This creates a great deal of stress as well,and partying where there are drugs and alcohol easily at hand as they are at most of such events can lead to abuse.
There are some reasons why there is so much substance abuse in the business--boredom plus money plus being overly tired and stressed all the time. These are not excuses. Many actors do not have substance abuse problems, but it takes very strong will power and character to avoid them.
The Screen Actors Guild should lead a campaign against substance abuse. They have immense power and should be looking out for the well being of the actors. They should find a way to penalize those who make drugs so readily available on movie sets and at Hollywood parties. But the final campaign has to be the actor himself or herself to just say, "NO!" to drugs and alcohol. It would be far better in my opinion for an actor to have to take a day or two off from working on a film than for him to start using drugs to keep him awake, give him energy, and allow him to sleep.