Let me preface this article by stating that I think Dr. Drew Pinsky--the addiction medicine specialist behind "Loveline," "Lifechangers," and most notably VH1's "Celebrity Rehab" and its spinoff shows, "Sex Rehab" and "Sober House"--does some fine work. Many celebrities that he has treated, like Mackenzie Phillips and "American Idol's" Nikki McKibbin, not to mention countless non-celebs, have been greatly helped by the good doctor. But Dr. Drew is not a miracle worker, and a (somewhat exploitative) reality show about addiction treatment is certainly no instant cure-all. And never has this been more apparent than it is now, in light of the suicide of troubled country singer Mindy McCready. Mindy, a veteran of "Celebrity Rehab" Season 3 who famously suffered an on-camera seizure when she was on the show, is the fifth "Rehab" alum to die in just the past two years.
The first "Celebrity Rehab" casualty was Mindy's Season 3 castmate, former Alice In Chains bassist Mike Starr (who also starred on "Sober House"); he died of a prescription drug overdose in March 2011. Not long before his death, it seemed like he'd finally turned his life around when he guested on the finale of "Celebrity Rehab 4" to give that cast's members a pep talk; Dr. Drew couldn't get over how much the seemingly cleaned-up Mike had transformed, and it looked like Mike might be one of the lucky ones, an addict who finally beats the odds. But it wasn't long before Mike was busted for felony possession of a controlled substance (six Xanax pills and six Opana pills), and he later met a tragic end. He was 46 years old.
Only two months after Mike's death, actor Jeff Conaway, who participated on "Rehab's" first and second seasons seeking treatment for painkiller addiction, died after he aspirated medications into his lungs and developed pneumonia. He was 60 years old. A year later, in June 2012, police brutality victim Rodney King, who starred on Season 2 and stayed sober for more than a year afterwards, drowned in his swimming pool after mixing alcohol and marijuana and going into cardiac arrest. He was 47. And then, two months after Rodney's death, Joey Kovar, a "Real World" star who signed up for "Celebrity Rehab 3" to receive treatment for his addictions to alcohol, various illegal substances, and steroids, died from opiate intoxication. He was 29.
Add to this tragic tally Warrant frontman Jani Lane. Jani didn't appear on "Celebrity Rehab" per se, but he received similar addiction treatment on another celebrity-improvement VH1 show, "Celebrity Fit Club," after it became clear that excessive drinking, not just the usual over-eating and under-exercising, was the real cause for his declining health. Jani appeared clean and sober, and much slimmer, by the season finale of "Fit Club" in 2005, but he died six years later from acute alcohol poisoning. He was 47.
And now there is the sad statistic of Mindy McCready—the fifth "Celebrity Rehab" death, third "Celebrity Rehab" Season 3 death, and sixth VH1-star death in just two years. She was only 37 years old, and she leaves two young children behind. Dr. Drew released a statement Sunday evening via Buzzfeed, saying:
"I am deeply saddened by this awful news. My heart goes out to Mindy's family and children. She is a lovely woman who will be missed by many. Although I have not treated her for few years, I had reached out to her recently upon hearing about the apparent suicide of her boyfriend and father of her younger children. She was devastated. Although she was fearful of stigma and ridicule she agreed with me that she needed to make her health and safety a priority. Unfortunately it seems that Mindy did not sustain her treatment.
"Mental health issues can be life threatening and need to be treated with the same intensity and resources as any other dangerous potentially life threatening medical condition. Treatment is effective. If someone you know is suffering please be sure he or she gets help and maintains treatment."
Surely by now, Dr. Drew—and VH1's viewers—must realize that shows like "Celebrity Rehab" don't always have a happy ending. And that definitely brings new meaning to the term "reality television."