A porn star in a pool with a wife-beater, a Baldwin brother complaining about boobs and is that the guy from Grease – not John Travolta of course – screaming?
Certainly, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew couldn’t get more tasteless, but before you dismiss it as another useless reality show, take a second look.
The show airs on VH1, the same network known for its trashy Celebreality shows with quasi-famous stars. Though Celebrity Rehab is one such where-are-the-stars show, the celebrities matter much less than the serious issue of battling drug addiction.
Cameras follow such “famous” rehabbers as Jeff Conaway from Grease, ex-pro wrestler Chyna, a porn star, some girl from Family Matters, a random Baldwin and some others who could really be random people off the street for all we know, as they undergo drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment with Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Dr. Drew, also known as the co-host of MTV’s sexual health talk show Loveline, earned his master’s degree at the University of Southern California and is a board-certified addiction medicine specialist. Throughout the show he conducts group and individual sessions and then talks about the psychology of drug addiction.
Though I do think the show has some slight merit, it certainly won’t convince a heroin addict to check into rehab. But in a society where so many people, especially younger kids, look to celebrities and reality TV stars to emulate, the show — along with health classes, advertisements and youth programs — could encourage a few to think twice about drugs.
Dr. Joseph Garbely, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Temple’s School of Medicine, calls the show a “traveling zoo.”
“[People on TV] who have no clue about psychiatry or psychology is the reason why so many actors and actresses don’t get the recovery they need,” he said. “They think they can just chill out at the beach, but that’s not it at all.”
Addiction is a disease that combines physical and psychological symptoms, Garbely said. Each time hard drugs and alcohol are used, the euphoric “reward center” in our brains builds more of a tolerance to them, building up psychological and physical dependencies on that drug.
To become sober, addicts should go through detox while being closely monitored by doctors, Garbely said. Then they should enter a 12-step residential program for a minimum of 90 days. These programs should be carried out by health care professionals and shouldn’t involve cameras.
Karen Jaffe, a project manager and counselor at Temple’s Health Behavior Research Center, has worked at outpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers. She questions the motivation of the “celebrities” on the show.
“I imagine they know the cameras are there,” Jaffe said. “I would wonder how that artificial environment would translate after they left.”
Certainly, we should question the validity of Celebrity Rehab. After all, they are all actors. I’m not even sure all the rehabbers are drug addicts or alcoholics. Surely, Brigitte Nielsen is looking for another minute of fame from the one network that was willing to give her 14 with The Surreal Life and Strange Love.
I say hats off to VH1 for sort of addressing a serious issue.
“In terms of younger viewers, addiction is addiction, so I guess in that respect everybody can learn from experiences,” Jaffe said. “You may be able to learn a little bit, but you need to be realistic about what you’re watching.”