The Popularity of Celebrity Addiction Treatment

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February 19, 2013

Celebrity’s Darker Side Under the Spotlight

While some consider the advent of “celebrity rehabs” to be exploitative, others view them poignant portrayals of the dark recesses of addiction and demise. Reality, as it were, includes both the negatives and positives of life. The no-holds-barred aspect of these reality shows give a first-class view of addiction and the fact that it can happen to anyone. Celebrity rehab shows often serve as public platform for attending physicians as much as they are for the celebrities being treated. Dr. Drew Pinsky, for example, has become synonymous with the phrase “celebrity rehab” for the reality show of the same name, which debuted in 2008 on VH1 and was put on hiatus after five seasons, eventually transforming into a non-celebrity version.

The Effect of Addiction and Rehab Shows

While viewers do see addicts struggling with addiction on these shows, the showcased addicts also help to remove the stigma associated with the disease. The attendant doctors also offer insight into the peculiarities and realities of addiction, giving viewers the opportunity to understand it from a biological and academic perspective. After the stories of the cast are heard, viewers are able to empathize with their plights. They also realize that addiction can happen to anyone–even recreational users.

Celebrities as Public Addicts

One of the first steps of beating an addiction is to face reality without the comforts of a substance. With reality TV shows, audiences are given a genuine glimpse into the lives of addicts, but only as much as scripting permits. Audiences get to experience the struggles with addicts, sympathize and commiserate with addicts, from the safety of their couches. The fact that celebrities are involved allows them to relate more to the stories — especially if the person watching the show remembers the celebrities during their heydays. Part of the lure of celebrity rehab shows is that they also prove that the struggle with substances can befall anyone — even those with the money and resources. The following are some of cast of “Celebrity Rehab” and their stories:

  • Brigitte Nielsen: Actress and model Nielsen had a strong alcohol addiction. After the show, Dr. Drew reported that she gave up alcohol and smoking for good. Nielsen has taken her stint on “Celebrity Rehab” and turned it into ways to help other addicts, becoming a guest on a radio show and a panelist at Pasadena Recovery Center. She relapsed in 2012.
  • Gary Busey: Zany actor and cocaine addict Gary Busey entered “Celebrity Rehab” as a mentor to the other patients. His own issues came to a head on the show and he sought treatment while there. His admission to rehab while attempting to treat others served as an inspiration for other addicts on the show, and even for Dr. Drew.
  • Heidi Fleiss: Once an infamous Hollywood madam, Fleiss found herself addicted to methamphetamine, marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine and mushrooms. After “Celebrity Rehab,” she lived in sober living house and then later lived as a caretaker of 25 parrots, which was filmed as a show for Animal Planet.
  • Mackenzie Phillips: By her own admission, Phillips, an actress, had a rough childhood and young adulthood that contributed to her marijuana, cocaine and heroin use. After the show, Phillips showed interest in becoming a counselor for addicts, and did a segment with Dr. Drew on “The View” about the special issues that women experience as drug addicts. Phillips had enjoyed several months of sobriety before she relapsed and checked into Pasadena Recovery Center.

“Celebrity Rehab” has also gained notoriety for the celebrities who didn’t make it. In February 2013, country music singer Mindy McCready died of an apparent suicide. She was the fifth person who had appeared on “Celebrity Rehab” to die. The others were Mike Starr, Jeff Conaway (prescription overdose), Rodney King and Joey Kovar.

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