Jada Pinkett Smith Talks Addiction and Substance Abuse, Inspires Us with Fearless Approach to Tackling Hard Topics

Trigger warning: this article discusses substance abuse, alcoholism and addiction

Jada Pinkett Smith might be a multi-millionaire actress with her own successful talk show, but life started out roughly for her.

jada-pinkett-smith-successful-talk-show
Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

In what was one the most honest episodes of her Red Table Talk FB Watch show, Jada spoke frankly about her own experiences with addiction, joined by family and friends — and their personal demons.

And while each of the guests walked their own path towards a healthy life, they all spoke of the importance of emotional health and the support of family and friends, reminding us to always check in with our loved ones and tell them they matter to us.

It takes a lot of courage to share your truth, especially when it involves the darkest parts of your life.

— Jada Pinkett Smith

The addict stereotype and the epidemic of prescription painkillers

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For Jada’s family friend and RnB singer August Alsina, addiction was present since childhood. Both his father and stepfather were addicted to crack cocaine and his father lost his battle years ago.

While the singer was aware of the destructive power of addiction, watching his father pawn off family assets and go through withdrawal over and over again, when it came to himself, he failed to recognize the signs. After an alcohol- and exhaustion-fueled accident left him in a coma for three days – even flatlining twice – August was prescribed painkillers.

Because it’s coming from a doctor, you feel like, what am I doing wrong?

— August Alsina

“I had endless supply of Percocet. I was raining Percocet,” August said, still struggling to believe the ease with which the narcotic was legally made available to him. But he was a functional addict, contradicting the drug addict’s stereotype, making it easy to deny the problem.

His dysfunctional emotional health combined with being surrounded by people who abused drugs to an even higher extent made ignorance even easier. But one day Jada called him, crying because of his self-destructive behavior and asking him to get help. And everything changed. He detoxed at home, with loved ones like Jada checking in every day, supporting him towards sobriety.

If someone loves you so much that it hurts them, then why can’t you love yourself enough to see that you’re hurting yourself?

— August Alsina

Peer pressure and the lack of self-confidence

“My entry into drugs was just trying to be part of the crowd, Jada’s mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris said, voice quivering with emotion.

For Adrienne, it started with cigarettes at age 15 in an effort to deal with self-image and self-confidence issues. Then alcohol entered the picture, followed by marijuana, leading to a more than 20-year-long cocaine addiction. Loosing friends, family, relationships and with her employment being threatened, Adrienne knew she had to change something, but couldn’t do it for herself – she didn’t love herself enough.

At that time, I didn’t think I was anything without a man, I had to put it on somebody else. — Adrienne Banfield-Norris

The reappearance of a former flame pushed her on the path of sobriety, though she still struggles that she did it “for a man.” Adrienne finally found strength in self-love and her faith in God. 27 years later, she is still sober, doesn’t worry about relapsing and does her best to support others on their journey.

There was a power. God was looking out for us. I just had to let go and surrender, so I could receive what he was giving.

— Adrienne Banfield-Norris

Escapism and drugs as emotional crutches

For Ashley Marie Smith, Will Smith’s youngest sister, marijuana became a 24-hour habit. As a far lighter drug than opioids or alcohol, it was easy to deny she had an issue. But a two-week plan to stay sober brought a brutal awakening: she was in fact addicted, abusing it to deal with emotional pain.

For Ashely Marie, it took a lot emotional work to kick the habit, because in the end weed wasn’t the problem. The issue lied within her and her refusal to deal with deep emotional pain, like the loss of her parents.

It’s not what you’re doing, but how you’re with it. How you’re doing it. It’s the behavior that’s attached to it.

— Jada Pinkett Smith

Loosing her father to drug overdose and watching her mom struggle for decades with drug abuse, put Jada into a prime spot for addiction.


“My addictions jump around… I’m a binger,” Jada admitted. At one point in her life she “thought everything could be fixed by sex,” using it to numb her emotional struggles and run away from everyday life.

Then it was alcohol, followed by fitness – a whole rollercoaster of self-destructive addictive behavior jeopardizing her health. In the end, it was all about achieving emotional health and inner peace and a constant vigilance over impulse control.

I had my own addictions that I had to get over, and it just made me realize that really great people just get caught up.

— Jada Pinkett Smith

Watch the full episode here:


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