"I understand that people interpret this as hypocritical, but what I mean to say is the media is presenting really disturbed people in desperate straits, and we as consumers are just lapping it up. And that says something about us, not about them," Pinsky told TVGuide.com. "I'm also the person treating addiction saying, 'Don't do drugs.' But I've got to go to where the problem is to address it. When it stops, I'll stop — happily."
The VH1 series (Thursdays, 10/9c) follows several celebrities as they undergo treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, under the watchful eyes of Pinksy, a camera crew and the audience at home. Participants in the program/show include Tom Sizemore, Heidi Fleiss and Mackenzie Phillips, as well as Dennis Rodman.
Pinsky, a board-certified internist and addiction-medicine specialist, says his show is different from media coverage of celebrity addictions because he helps the people in his treatment, rather just monitoring their troubles."How many of these people are going to die before we say enough of this, before we're going to stop being so preoccupied with other people's pain and suffering?" Pinsky said. "The reality is these people are very ill and they need our prayers, not our disdain."
Dr. Petros Levounis, director of the Addiction Institute of New York at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospitals, said Celebrity Rehab has both positives and negatives. The positives, he said, include Pinsky bringing his methods to the masses. "He models for family members how they can approach the substance-abusing loved one with compassion but firmness at the same time," Levounis said.
But Levounis fears the show might also minimize the long-term damage of drug use. Young adults may believe because of the show that they can "do as much drugs as they want and come out on the other side and be healthy, beautiful, successful and rich," Levounis said. He adds that he's not entirely comfortable with filming someone's recovery, because addicts need introspection and humility during treatment.
Writer-director Duncan Roy, who participated in a Celebrity Rehab spinoff called Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2009, said people respond to the candor of Pinsky's shows. Though he calls Pinsky a "master" of treating drug and alcohol addiction, he questions whether Pinsky extended himself too far with Sex Rehab. "As far as sex addiction is concerned, he was underqualified. And he'll admit that himself," Roy said.
Pinsky, who has worked with The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, said sex addiction is not his "day-in, day-out field," but that the team of experts who worked with him on the show were highly qualified. "I normally refer out sex addiction to people like my other teammates in the program," Pinsky said. "I assembled a team [for Sex Rehab] and they were an excellent team."
Rob Weiss, founder and Executive Director of The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, had nothing but praise for sex addiction therapist Jill Vermeire, who used to work for him and worked as one of Pinsky's experts on the show. "I know that part of her [role] is to be the expert and help him stay on task," Weiss said.
Celebrity Rehab executive producer John Irwin said televised rehab does far more good than harm. "I think this show peels back the veil and eliminates the shroud of shame that goes along with getting treatment," he said. "Tons of people write in saying we save their lives or [they] are looking for treatment, and we refer them out. There are levels of it that are salacious, but I think that on the whole, it's inspiring."
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