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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, January 12, 2008

Are you watching Celebrity Rehab on VH1?

Dr. Drew Pinsky is best known for the radio program Loveline, but also boasts of being an addiction medicine specialist. He is nationally known through his various TV appearances, although he hasn’t achieved Dr. Phil’s prominence.

On January 10, Dr. Drew inaugurated “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” on VH1. This disturbing series invites 10 varyingly addicted semicelebrities into a televised inpatient rehab stint – including the wrestler Chyna, former celebrity spouse Brigitte Nielsen, and a troublingly medically compromised Jeff Conaway (from the TV series “Taxi”).

Also present is the ubiquitous recovery commentator Daniel Baldwin, who says he is appearing in order to help other people through his example. The Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley commented, “The show offers desperate people a last chance to detox, but it’s also a last call for show business has-beens who crave one more crack at fame.”

Dr. Drew combines a disease with a psychoanalytic, abuse orientation (people are addicted in response to being abused). Thus the program eschews the 12 steps in favor of plumbing people’s deep hurts and emotional problems, while describing their “disease” as the active partner in their substance abuse (“your disease is doing x”).

I wonder where the graduates will end up. Dr. Drew threatens to kick any who misbehave out of the “program” (those who are seemingly too bad for a last-ditch treatment try). I expect there will be happy graduates – but I wonder what long-term follow-up will look like.