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Rehabbing celebs take to Dr. Drew

From left: Dr. Drew Pinsky, Rodney King, musician Steven Adler, and actor Jeff Conaway on ''Celebrity Rehab.'' From left: Dr. Drew Pinsky, Rodney King, musician Steven Adler, and actor Jeff Conaway on ''Celebrity Rehab.'' (vh1)
By Sandy Cohen
Associated Press / October 28, 2008
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LOS ANGELES - Rodney King is swigging a beer as he talks with TV's "Dr. Drew" Pinsky.

"Every day I wake up with a beer is a good day," he says as he drains the bottle.

King, whose 1991 beating by Los Angeles police led to deadly rioting the next year, is among eight famous people set to face their addictions on the second season of VH1's "Celebrity Rehab," which began last week.

The premiere episode showed actors Jeff Conaway, Gary Busey, Amber Smith, and Tawny Kitaen hooked on opiate painkillers; King and former "American Idol" finalist Nikki McKibbin dealing with drug and alcohol dependencies; and rockers Sean Stewart and Steven Adler struggling to stay away from street drugs, prescription pills, and alcohol.

Patients are either referred to the show by their counselors or approached by the casting team, said executive producer John Irwin. King calls his participation on the show and newfound sobriety "a blessing." In separate interviews, he and Pinsky discussed their experiences with on-camera rehabilitation.

Q: Talk about the concept of televising celebrities in rehab.

Pinsky: We were tired of people talking about celebrities with a life-threatening illness as though they were engaged in some sort of a publicity stunt. . . . There's a whole field of addiction medicine that is how do you motivate people to get better. There are experiments going on out there where they paid patients to get better. Well, we did the same thing. We paid them, and we put them on TV.

Q: How do TV cameras affect treatment?

Pinsky: The experience is so inspiring that they have a natural tendency to want to share it. And it's in their personalities - they are celebrities after all - but they want people to understand them in this transformative experience. The other thing that the cameras have done that's a net positive is it made them feel a sense of obligation to the community, like, "We want to be an example to other people."

King: It felt like I was, in one way, helping a generation before me and a generation coming up after me, to let them see a good, fairly decent human being struggle with this disease. After a while, I didn't even really notice the cameras. I threw that out of my mind and just focused on what I was there for. What I was there for was to help myself. And at the same time I knew that by me being upfront with this thing, that other people might think, "It's not so embarrassing, let me go get myself some help."

Q: How does it affect the dynamic to be a public figure who isn't a performer?

King: I was very happy and very lucky to be around so many successful people who are struggling with whatever they're going through. To see them confront their problems on camera, it made it a lot easier on me.

Pinsky: He is the unwitting, the unwilling celebrity. . . . But he does understand his life has been lived under the shadow of those events, so he is a celebrity, he is a public figure, he knows that. . . . He was a great story in this. I ended up using him as a leader among his peers to help stabilize some of the problems that developed in the unit.

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