I’m asking because I just caught myself making a sarcastic joke about this to a friend. Now, I don’t have any beef with Mr. Sheen – in fact, before this, I was unaware that he had substance abuse issues. I just caught him and Martin Sheen on a clip, where they talk about his disease (and I’m not looking to start an argument over whether or not drug addiction is a disease – lets keep this to rehab).
I’ve had my own issues with substance abuse. It’s no fun. Well, rather, its a hell of a lot of fun at first, and then it gradually becomes quite awful. Chasing that dragon, and all that – pick your metaphor. I feel that the only way to quit substance abuse is to truly want to – and then to do it. That is, to literally STOP USING THE SUBSTANCE.
I should note that, with certain drugs (sheesh, why was I using the euphemism “substance”, there, anyway?), YES, you absolutely need to quit them under the care of a qualified professional. This is what I would call “detox” – the physical “getting off”. For example, hardcore alcoholics often need to take regular doses of benzodiazepines, in order to avoid the dreaded delirium tremens, and possible seizures, which can KILL you. So yes, by all means, see a doctor.
Rehab, on the other hand, strikes me as something that those who have the money use as a vacation, in a sense. Most insurance plans (as far as I know) don’t cover weeks of in-patient rehab – I’m not trying to make this a “class issue”, but certainly, people like Charlie Sheen can afford to go live in an idyllic setting for a few weeks, attend “group therapy classes”, and do all sorts of other activities designed to get him to avoid relapse.
My beef is this: I’ve never seen any evidence that its effective, particularly amongst those of means. I’m not talking Hollywood celebs, here, necessarily, either – I’m talking about friends of mine. People who’ve gone to rehab four, five, ten, twenty times. They come out feeling great, and ready to face their demons – and it lasts all of a few days (or weeks, if they have some stamina). I call this the “camp meeting” effect, after Mark Twain’s description of people who “get religion” during a camp meeting, and then lose their fervor once the whole circus packs up and leaves town. Basically, I believe that rehab only works while people are in rehab – after that point, they almost always go back to their old habits, they see their old friends (and dealers), and the cycle begins anew.
This wouldn’t really be an issue if not for two things. One is the hypocrisy: just as the new church member displays the strongest devotion, the recently “reborn” rehab-man is immediately above those who’re still struggling with their particular demons. After all, they went to rehab, and that cures you, right?
The second is…well, cynical. This is one we’ve certainly all observed, if we ever catch newsbites about the celebrity drug-abusers; they’re going to rehab because it allows them to avoid jail. How many times was Lindsay Lohan caught drunk driving and posessing cocaine? Four, five? She gets to buy her way out of the unpleasantness. Most people can’t afford it, so they either do the time, or they get pushed into the non-plush version of “rehab”, which is government-run “accelerated rehabilitation” classes. Nothing inherently wrong with these gov-run programs – the problem is that one’s punishment depends on one’s wallet, and thats not right.
I’m sure this got a little rambling. I suspect that in-patient, multi-week “plush” rehab centers have worked for plenty of people. Maybe I simply haven’t seen it. Further, I’m not sure what I’m arguing for, here – that Sheen go to jail? Certainly not. I’m ultimately for complete drug legalization. I suppose I’ll sum it up with this:
I think high-cost rehab centers are kidding themselves about their effectiveness. I think their effectiveness (in terms of those who attend, leave, and never “reoffend”) is probably in the single-digits, percent-wise. And for some people, I think the best thing for them is – if not jail – to simply separate them from their drug friends, and their dealers.
Anyway, what’re peoples’ thoughts, here? Is multi-week, inpatient rehab effective? Should people be sentenced to it, as opposed to jail-time? Should we just leave those who choose to use to their own devices?