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.