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August 31, 2015

Do Rehab Shows Take Advantage of Their Subjects?

by Jean Bentley, posted Jan 5th 2011 5:00PM
'Celebrity Rehab'We'd like to think that when we watch shows like 'Intervention' or 'Celebrity Rehab,' we're seeing people better their lives through the help and support of addiction professionals. But according to some people in the rehabilitation field, the reality shows might be doing more harm than good for their subjects.

In an interesting feature on rehab shows that ran this weekend in the Los Angeles Times, Dr. David Sack of Malibu's Promises Treatment Center said he worries that the shows take advantage of people in their most vulnerable, altered states.

"Our concern is that people who are in the throes of an addiction should not be signing a release for something that will be shown on TV over and over," he said.

Leif Garrett, a participant in the current season of VH1's 'Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,' told the Times that the 'Celebrity Rehab' crew coerced him into using heroin on-camera after living clean for four days. "They asked to get some footage of me using, and I said, 'I haven't been using,'" he told the paper. "They said, 'We really have to get footage of you using.' Anyway, I was easily talked into showing them."

A VH1 spokesperson vehemently denied Garrett's claim. "The show's producers would never ask anyone to use...PERIOD," said VH1 Communications VP Scott Acord. But Garrett brings up an interesting point. How much of what we see on those shows is real, and how much is playing to the camera?

"People who are sharing the most intimate details of their life are going to change the way they relate to their therapist on camera," Sack told the Times. "It becomes a performance -- not treatment."

Add celebrity to the mix and you have an extra layer of trouble to contend with.

"We all knew we were on TV. I think everybody, like myself, made choices. Sometimes we would go a little bit further than maybe we normally would," said Jeff Conaway, another 'Celebrity Rehab' participant. "You can't help it. There are cameras sitting in front of your face, and we're paid to be dramatic. That's what we do."

If Garrett's claim is true, the VH1 crew's actions are completely reprehensible and the answer is obvious -- yes, he's being taken advantage of. But what about the regular people on 'Intervention'? Even if they don't stick to their programs (and, sadly, many do not), doesn't the fact that they're getting any help at all make the whole thing worth it?

It clearly all depends on the integrity of the people behind each show. A&E has killed some episodes of 'Intervention' after participants were embarassed by their behavior. And to Dr. Drew's credit, all 'Celebrity Rehab' patients who spoke to the Times said he helped save their lives -- the show, maybe not as much.

Do you think rehab shows are exploitative?
Yes, they definitely are90 (35.2%)
Maybe, but I think they're worthwhile anyway92 (35.9%)
No, these people signed up to be on TV74 (28.9%)

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Antoinette Ellis

well i leave in decatur ga and i have two kids and i havent been working becaue i have a herina and dont have medicaed and i have been having problems with it for the past two and the half years and it hurt so much and i hate i can't get my kids anything for christmas and it hurt me so bad for the past two years and i want my kids to be happy this year dr.drew so can u help me and my family out please!!!!!!!

November 19 2011 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a recovering addict myself, the problem I have with this show, though I do watch it, is that it doesn't show the real hardships that going through treatment and those first few months of sobriety entail. It is impossible to show all the emotions and reality that set in during those first few months on an hourly show. Honestly, I think that they may make getting sober look too easy... and it isn't, at first... after some time, it begins to get easier as you live your life as a sober person but this show does not follow up with the people. I sponsor many people that are new in sobriety and am a firm believer that unless you have been there, you don't really know what is happening to you... but I bless Dr. Drew for trying.

January 05 2011 at 5:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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