Winehouse had checked into the Priory clinic last month for seven days to try to rein in her drinking. She reportedly was in such bad shape, she bought and drank a bottle of vodka on the drive to the rehab center.
Addiction experts tell Fox411 that given Winehouse’s history with drug and alcohol abuse, she needed a stay of three months or more in order to prepare for the rigors of a global tour. And they say she’s just the latest in a string of celebs who are rushed back onstage too soon, often after completing only a fraction of the rehab they need.
In 2004, pop superstar Whitney Houston spent just five days in rehab for prescription pill popping before checking out. She entered Eric Clapton’s Crossroads rehabilitation in Antigua for a month the following year.
But like Winehouse, Houston’s rehab wasn’t long enough. Experts say her substance abuse problems required at least six months of in-patient care followed by intensive outpatient treatment. It came back to haunt her in 2010 when Houston was forced to cancel many of her comeback tour dates.
Then, in May of this year, she entered rehab again.
“Frequent seekers of sobriety need extended and continuous care, which can take many years,” Dr. Harris Stratyner, the regional clinical vice president of the Caron Treatment Center of New York tells Fox411. “Certainly, if someone has had an ongoing addiction issue and they are a multiple substance abuser, they can use an extended recovery period.”
But for big stars, it's a balancing act between their well-being and their balance sheet. High-risk users like Winehouse, whose drug of choice has been crack cocaine, and Houston, who has also abused cocaine, are also high-return assets. They generate millions of dollars for concert promoters, management staff, backup dancers, singers and instrument players, and the rest of their large entourages. That’s why promoters often push them back into the spotlight before they’re ready—to keep the cash machine churning.
“Amy Winehouse is an extreme example, but anyone in this business can tell you we have practically propped these folks up onstage drunk as a skunk to keep a tour going,” one concert promoter told Fox411. “Time spent in recovery is lost cash.”
Michael Jackson was desperate for money when he embarked on an ambitious global concert tour in 2009 to try to pay off more than $400 million in debt. He and his handlers hoped to both redeem his image and get the singer back in the black.
It didn’t work out that way.
Before the concerts began, Jackson died of an overdose of the powerful anesthetic Propofol, a drug used for surgery that he said he needed just to go to sleep. In videos of his tour rehearsals released posthumously, Jackson looked frail and out of it, a shadow of his former King of Pop self.
Returning to the spotlight too soon can be even more dangerous for people who are battling psychological disorders as well as addiction.
“While I have never treated Amy Winehouse, I have treated people in the entertainment field, and they often have anxiety personality disorders that complicates their treatment,” Dr. Stratyner says. Winehouse has previously admitted to having severe depression issues and problems involving cutting and self-harm.
And even when they do pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get clean and sober, celebrities often don’t get the same level of care given to the average Joe.
“Unfortunately, many places will treat celebrities different than others, hoping that their program will get a boost from the fact that the celebrity is there, and lean over backwards to please them, not providing appropriate care,” Dr. Marvin Seppala, Chief Medical Officer for the Hazelden rehabilitation centers tells Fox411.
Seppala also says well-publicized flip-flop sobriety -- a consistent pattern of rehabilitation and failure -- undermines the good work that rehabilitation facilities do.
“When people see inadequately treated addiction, whether it is a family member or a celebrity, they get negative impressions about addiction and its treatment,” Seppala says. “If someone ‘completes’ treatment and immediately is in trouble again, people lose faith in the treatment system. One can’t blame the celebrities, but since they are under the microscope of the media, their actions can influence the masses in a negative manner.”