Rehab Isn't What It Used to Be Starlets Kirsten Dunst and Eva Mendes are just the latest in a long line of celebrities who are checking into rehab. Drug and alcohol abuse is nothing new to Hollywood. What's changing is the way it's being covered by the media and the plush extras available at recovery facilities.
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Rehab Isn't What It Used to Be

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Rehab Isn't What It Used to Be

Rehab Isn't What It Used to Be

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(Soundbite of song, "Rehab")

Ms. AMY WINEHOUSE (Singer): (Singing) They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no.' Yes I've been...


One of the songs nominated for Best Record of the Year is this tune, "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse. But the 24-year-old soul singer won't be at the Grammys this weekend because she's in rehab, for real.

Two weeks ago, Winehouse checked herself into a London facility shortly after video of her smoking what looked to be a crack pipe surfaced on celebrity news shows like TMZ.

(Soundbite of TV show, "TMZ")

Unidentified Man #1: Amy ending up in a home video apparently smoking crack is not exactly shocking news. Back in December photogs caught her with what looked like white powder in her nose.

COHEN: In recent months, tales of stars with drug and alcohol problems have become all too familiar.

Unidentified Man #2: Shocked news this morning. I was shocked to hear this. That Kirsten Dunst, Hollywood starlet, the latest to head for rehab.

Unidentified Man #3: This woman, Nicole Richie, arrested earlier today for DUI.

Unidentified Woman: We've learned that Eva Mendez has been in rehab at the Cirque Lodge in Utah - the same place where Lindsay Lohan was - for a couple of weeks now.

COHEN: And just this week the New York medical examiner announced that actor Heath Ledger's death was caused by an accidental overdose - the result of taking six different painkillers and sedatives.

Dr. DREW PINKSY (Celebrity Rehab): Celebrities love to party, but many of them don't know when to stop.

COHEN: Stars struggling with drug and alcohol addition have become so common lately it's even the premise for a new reality show on VH1.

Dr. PINKSY: I'm Dr. Drew and this is Celebrity Rehab.

COHEN: Especially now, when the paparazzi trail a stars' every move, it's easy to see why celebs struggle with dependencies, says Gary Stromberg, who wrote a book on the subject titled, The Harder They Fall.

Mr. GARY STROMBERG (Author, The Harder They Fall): To be a star takes a great deal of courage, you know, and not all of us are possessed with that kind of courage.

COHEN: Stromberg says many celebrities turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to fill emotional voids - voids that run deep in a world where you can be all the rage one week and completely forgotten the next. Though that's nothing new, he says, the way stars deal with addiction has changed a lot.

Mr. STROMBERG: It's only in the last, I guess, 20 years that rehab has existed at all. Bela Lugosi - this goes back to the '30s and the '40s - he went to the Norwalk hospital for the criminally insane. That's how alcoholism was treated back in those days.

COHEN: These days celebrities are much more likely to wind up someplace like this.

(Soundbite of water running)

COHEN: There's a koi pond in front of this sprawling $22 million Malibu estate that's home to an addiction treatment center called Passages. Chris Prentiss is the center's founder.

Mr. CHRIS PRENTISS (Founder, Passages treatment center): We've treated a lot of celebrities, and their treatment is exactly the same as everyone else's treatment.

COHEN: That includes intense group and individual therapy, hypnotherapy, massage, acupuncture and yoga, but rehab here isn't cheap.

Mr. PRENTISS: The cost for a one month stay is $67,550.

COHEN: Prentiss says he's happy to help any celebrity overcome addiction, but he does have some reservations about the message that sends, especially to young people.

Mr. PRENTISS: When celebrities go out and use, because so many of them are going to rehab now, teenagers think that it's OK to go out and use.

Ms. SUSAN FOSTER (Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse): We live in this culture where alcohol and drug use is glamorized.

COHEN: Susan Foster is with Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

Ms. FOSTER: A related issue is what good the rehab is. I mean, sometimes you almost are led to believe that celebrities go into rehab as a way to avoid other kinds of sanctions.

COHEN: Foster says when celebs go to rehab just to get out of bad PR, treatment probably won't work. They're likely to wind up back in rehab - and that sends the wrong message to the public, too.

Ms. FOSTER: If you have this continual focus on the fact that people aren't getting well, that sort of adds to the sense of despair or the worry that maybe I can't succeed.

COHEN: Foster does see one positive aspect to the recent media attention on celebrities and addiction. She says it provides parents an excellent opportunity to talk to their kids about alcohol and drug use. And according to her research, open dialogue at home is still the best preventive measure.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: NPR's DAY TO DAY continues.

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