Is “Celebrity Rehab” a Death Game for Addicted Stars?

Last modified: July 24, 2014 01:57:15 AM

You have to fight for everyone of these people to make it and not all of them will. But if you don’t fight for them and they don’t fight for themselves, they definitely won’t make it.’

Reality TV has come under a lot of fire lately, with critics calling the genre vacuous, superficial, and an engine to promote narcissism.  Others say the format is fake, scripted and that it sensationalizes the boring lives of D-list celebrities, interrupts the lives of regular people, and basically does not perform any service of use other than fluffy entertainment for the masses.

One show that has been demonized somewhat in the press is “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew”, a reality show which follows the lives of addicted celebrities.  The actors, singers, and musicians who take part in this show,  get paid to be there, and many accuse the stars of using the addiction premise to get more publicity and perhaps more work.  It was rumored that more than one star on the show was booted out of the program because it was clear she had no substance abuse problems or addictions whatsoever; they were merely seeking notoriety or fame.

Some say the program profits from the misery of the celebrities, and that the audience is only watching because they love to see the downfall of someone who used to be famous.  There are doctors and experts in the drug rehabilitation field who claim that “Celebrity Rehab” can only do damage to the stars who appear on the show for treatment;  with cameras following them around, the cannot focus on getting better and perhaps focus more on a performance, ultimately leading to failure, relapse, and very sadly, death.

Four celebrities who appeared on various seasons of Celebrity Rehab have died after trying to beat the demon of addiction:  Jeff Conaway passed away at 60 years of age after battling an opioid medication habit, Rodney King, 47 died after a relapse where he mixed alcohol and marijuana, Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr, 44, died of a prescription overdose, and reality star Joey Kovar died age 29 on August 17 of this year.  Toxicology reports are still pending.  Critics state that the deaths prove that when cameras are involved, rehab is hopeless.

Bob Forrest, a counselor on the program and former addict himself, spoke to the media about the tragic deaths of the four men.

“It’s not hopeless, but it’s just really hard; it’s hard to stay sober because there’s so much accessibility and life is so difficult for addicts to live. Every addict that gets sober is a miracle. Rodney was the biggest shock to me. He had been sober a year and a half, and I knew he had relapsed but, still, when he died, I was just like, ‘Oh my God.’”

“Not all of them make it,” said Jeff Olde, VH1 Executive Vice President of Original Programming and producer on the show.  “Not all of them stay sober and that is an absolute reality of people dealing with addiction. I’ve learned a lot personally about how the process works. The show does a real service by showing what the journey is like, how difficult it is, and how fragile it is.”

“Like Dr. Drew says, ‘You have to fight for every one of these people to make it and not all of them will. But if you don’t fight for them and they don’t fight for themselves, they definitely won’t make it.’”

Fans of the show claim that the show isn’t about being voyeuristic and enjoying the misery of downtrodden celebrities; they claim the show educates the public about the horrors of addiction and that the viewers become much more sympathetic, compassionate, and understanding towards those who need it the most.   The show has had successes with Tim Sizemore and other celebrities; and furthermore it shows that when people want to get better, they will never quit trying to quit.

Sid Vicious: The Violent Life of an Addict

Last modified: August 8, 2013 02:59:20 AM

Sid Vicious, punk icon of the 1970’s.

Sid Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie in London, England on May 10, 1957, shot to fame in the mid-to-late 1970’s as the bass player for the leading punk band at the time, the Sex Pistols.  However, what is might be remembered for most today is the fact that his music career disintegrated before his eyes due to his escalating drug abuse which led to the death of his girlfriend Nancy Spungeon in 1979 under violent circumstances and his own death a few months later in 1980.

Vicious, in 1977, was brought into the Sex Pistols by manager Malcolm McLaren as a replacement for bassist Glen Matlock.  Although Vicious couldn’t play bass, (and by most accounts never did learn how to play properly), McLaren thought that his spiky hair, self-destructive tendencies, bad attitude and slovenly appearance would resonate with the masses of disaffected youth that were in the United Kingdom at the time.    The Sex Pistols played fast-paced songs that were short in duration and expressed anger and frustration about the economic and social problems of the time and were already something of a sensation.  However, once Vicious was on board, the band’s popularity simply exploded, especially with the release of “God Save the Queen” in which Queen Elizabeth II was insulted.

The same year that “God Save the Queen” was released, Vicious met Nancy Spungeon and the two, from the moment they met, were never apart.  Vicious’ band mates claim that Spungeon was responsible for Vicious’ rapidly escalating drug abuse; in fact, Spungeon accompanied them on their tour of the United States.  The amount of drugs both Vicious and Spungeon were consuming caused the Sex Pistols to disintegrate, and before even ten shows were performed, the Sex Pistols split up.

Vicious and Spungeon moved to the Chelsea hotel in New York City; Spungeon became his manager and did manage to get him a few shows, however his performance was below even mediocre standards as he was intoxicated with drug cocktails most of the time.  While the pair did try to get clean, they ended up even more addicted than ever, and their existence became dedicated to feeding their drug habits.  Reports say that both were addicted to and actively consuming heroin, barbiturates, a synthetic form of morphine, and other substances.

In a drug induced haze on October 12, 1979, Nancy Spungeon had been found in their Chelsea hotel room, dead from a stab wound to her abdomen, and Vicious was found wandering in the hotel.  He confessed to killing her although he couldn’t remember what had happened.  He was charged with second-degree murder.

Vicious was released on bail a few days later, and attempted to commit suicide.  He got into a fight in a bar, and was put back into prison for seven weeks, during which time he became clean.  He was released on February 1, 1980, and at a party celebrating his release, he overdosed on heroin and was found dead the next morning by his girlfriend.  Originally it was said it was his mother who gave him the fatal dose of drugs as a gift to celebrate his release from jail. However, in 2009  Peter Gravelle finally came clean and said that it was him who handed his friend Sid Vicious, his last half-gram of heroin.

If you or someone you care about is having problems with substance abuse, call a professional medical expert who can help you on the path to sobriety today.