2008 Comeback Stories: Drug rehab is now cool

This post is part of our series on people, places and things that have found new life in 2008.

If you're a Hollywood has-been, or even a current star like Eva Mendes, it seems as if the best way to resuscitate or boost your career is to go to drug and/or alcohol treatment. In fact, rehab is so popular these days that the latest and greatest reality television show focused on celebrities getting treatment for their addictions.

"Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" on VH1 is wrapping up its first season, and I've watched it out of morbid curiosity. After a couple weeks of inpatient treatment, the celebrities are being released back into society to try to live life without drugs and alcohol. And it doesn't look like most of them are prepared to do this successfully.

What did the show feature? Lots of emotional outbursts and scenes featuring rage and dysfunctional ways of coping. It made for good television. I'll admit that much. But I don't know how much the show represented reality for most drug addicts.

And I wonder how many of the participants were there simply for the fame? It seems silly to me to think that a career could be revived by publicly showing your mental meltdowns and your withdrawal from addictive drugs. But our society is under the spell of celebrities, watching their every move and playing the part of the adoring fans, no matter how far in the gutter the celebrities let themselves fall.

Just look at what addiction and mental health issues have done for the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. Although it may not be positive attention, it's attention nonetheless. I don't think either of these young women have ever seen their faces in magazines and on television quite as often as they do now. Face it... our society has largely glamorized drug addiction by celebrities and that's sad.

I have no problem at all with people getting help for their problems. If you've got a drug or alcohol problem and you care at all about your family and friends, you'll get the help you need to kick your damaging habit. But let's not throw you a party for finally becoming the human being you were meant to be. And by all means, let's not glorify your trip to rehab. It's not a place anyone should want to be.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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