— We see it over and over again: Big-time star goes into rehab, comes out, messes up, and goes back in again. So what’s it really like inside these celebrity rehab centers? And when they get out, why do so many stars keep falling off the wagon?
Child actor turned radio host Danny Bonaduce has been to rehab centers three times, including Promises in Malibu, a celebrity favorite. Stars pay up to 90 grand to get in. A stay includes sweeping views, luxury suites, resort-style swimming pools and gourmet dining. Bonaduce calls such facilities “country clubs that don’t have the decency to have a bar.”
The CEO of Promises, Dr. David Sack, gave us full access. It resembled a five-star resort. There was something called the Princess Suite, a spa, a massage room. But how does this actually help with recovery?
"We created an environment that was going to be recognizable to people as comfortable, welcoming, that was going to reduce their anxiety so that they'd want to stay for treatment," Sack said. "When you serve them gourmet food, you're really saying that you're not a worthless human being just because you have a drug problem."
Sack said that Promises isn't just about recreation: It's a serious treatment facility, complete with therapy, meetings, and mandatory drug testing. And they have many success stories. But insiders say some stars go to rehab not to get better, but to get out of trouble.
"You name a celeb that's been to rehab, and I'll show you — do you remember they were about to go to jail that day?" Bonaduce said. "I don't know a celebrity that's been to rehab that wasn't either going to jail, or was fired off a movie set, or couldn't get insurance to do a movie."
And many use again. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that between 40 to 60 percent of patients relapse after treatment. And addiction experts say that part of the problem is that it's glamorized. Mess up, and you make the cover.
"For celebrities, there seems to be less consequence," Sack said. "They get the notoriety, they get attention, but we're not looking at their private lives. Most of these individuals are suffering profoundly."
And as stars fall off the wagon, many get "help" from their entourages, full of "yes men." Chris Gardner is a celebrity journalist who says he worked his way into the inner circle of several troubled A-list stars, becoming their enabler.
"Everyone in this town wants to be friends with a celebrity, it's an exciting life, you get access to places you'd never normally go, you get a certain level of service," Gardner said. "And the tradeoff is that sometimes you're the one supplying them with the drugs."
And if you say no? "Then like, 'See you later,' " Gardner said. "If you don't agree with what that celebrity wants, you'll be gone, and there are dozens if not hundreds of people to take your place."
Gardner said that he's now clean and sober, and his days of enabling celebrities are in the past. He's speaking out now, hoping to change the dysfunctional Hollywood culture.
"I think things seem like they're getting worse," Gardner said. "Anytime you have superstars die seemingly one right after the other, it seems that this is becoming an epidemic."
There are success stories — stars who kick the habit for good after rehab. But addiction experts say it's getting harder to stay clean. In Hollywood, like everywhere else, prescription pills are easy to get, and legal to have. As one insider told me, they've become so popular, celebrities trade pills like mints.