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Published: Saturday, 8/4/2007

Rehab experts claim failures of celeb addicts set bad example

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For every Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears who leaves alcohol and drug rehabilitation only to resume partying, another celebrity is able to battle addictions with far less fanfare in the tabloids.

But the half-hearted attempts of celebrity addicts such as Ms. Lohan who was arrested last week soon after a rehabilitation stint and booked on suspicion of felony cocaine possession, misdemeanor driving under the influence, and driving with a suspended license casts doubt on the effectiveness of treatment, say some in the substance abuse field locally.

I guess, in the end, it does give the whole treatment world a bad look, said Bill Sanford, president and chief executive of Compass, a Toledo substance-abuse program.

Short stays in and out of rehabilitation give others the idea that they can breeze through treatment, too, causing concern among professionals, said Kevin Mullan, spokesman for Community Partnership in Toledo.

Ms. Spears, for example, spent less than 24 hours at a treatment center the first time she went to one this year.

They re not sending the right image of what treatment is for, Mr. Mullan said.

Still, many people realize celebrities such as Ms. Lohan are indifferent and not responding to treatment, which takes focus and time, said Glen Witt, a counselor at Toledo Hospital s Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center.

Treatment programs can t feed the egos of celebrities by allowing them to work during rehabilitation, keep an entourage with them, and otherwise let them believe they are different from other addicts, some in the profession said.

There is, Mr. Sanford said, one difference: They have the money to stay in rehabilitation as often as they need, which in the case of actress Mackenzie Phillips was several times.

Actor Daniel Baldwin s recently revealed he is a diehard coke head who went through rehabilitation nine times.

An interview on ABC s Primetime, when Mr. Baldwin was not allowed to gloss over how his addiction affected other people and other subjects, was a good piece, Toledo Hospital s Mr. Witt said.

Mr. Witt said none of his patients has brought up Ms. Lohan or Ms. Spear s well-publicized mishaps.

People going through treatment for substance abuse don t pay much attention to celebrity addicts, said a recovering addict involved with Alcoholic Anonymous and others who work with them.

Men living at Toledo s Open Door Ministry, a transitional housing facility for recovering addicts, will laugh during news snippets about Ms. Spears shaving her head after her first rehabilitation stay and other celebrity meltdowns. But woes of the pretty people are far removed from their own struggles, said Bill Burns, executive director. You really can t relate, he said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:jmckinnon@theblade.comor 419-724-6087.



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