Inside Hollywood rehabs: Are the facilities just overpriced and useless?

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Published August 27, 2013

| FoxNews.com

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office is investigating the mysterious August 14 death of “That’s 70’s Show” actress, Lisa Robin Kelly, taking a close look at the prestigious rehab facility where she died in her sleep. Nestled away in the serene foothills of Altadena, the Pax House rehab center boasts everything from yoga and art therapy to music therapy and gourmet meals prepared by a Cordon Bleu chef.

But clearly the comfy facility failed to help Kelly. And according to multiple experts and insiders, this is often the case with flashy Hollywood rehab centers.

Sources tell us “clients” at Hollywood’s favorite rehabs are sometimes pampered and preened without any real recovery progress. Rehab patients typically pay anywhere from $30,000 to $90,000 a month for their treatment stay, and there are doctors that detox high-profile people in plush Hollywood hotels for $10,000 a day. By comparison, the more common rehabs across the country are about $4,000 per month.

“While treatment center owners will publicly claim otherwise, [there are] anecdotes about the ways the rules are bent for celebrities and often other people who have a lot of money,” Anna David, CEO of sober support and addiction news online community AfterPartyChat.com, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “Even the professionals get star struck. They start to prioritize the celebrity being at their facility over the celebrity getting better and suddenly these celebrities are allowed to skip groups, and get day and night passes.”

Sources say deep-pocketed stars are also granted more elbow room than their insurance paying counterparts, who are under more scrutiny to actually follow the rules. We’re told certain known names have even had sexual encounters with others in-treatment, are granted permission to use cell phones and computers beyond the standard one to two hours per day, enjoy unregulated visits from entourages, are allowed time away to have their dogs groomed and have their dietary requests met.

“Celebrities have ‘yes’ people that will do whatever they want to keep the gravy train going, and I’ve had some celebrities expect me not to charge them for missed appointments,” said psychotherapist and author of “The Law of Sobriety” Sherry Gaba, who has worked at numerous high-end Los Angeles centers.

But Constance Scharff, PhD, who works as an addiction researcher and transformative studies scholar at the upscale Cliffside Malibu, where Lohan completed her most recent court-ordered stint, insisted all clients are treated the same.  

“We want our residents to feel like they are staying in a high-end boutique hotel with all their needs met so that they can focus on their recovery,” she said. “Though we have a spa-like atmosphere, Cliffside is a treatment center. Because each client is given an individualized treatment plan that regularly changes, there is no ‘typical’ day.”

Yet the notion of an “individualized program” touted by many rehabs can be translated, in some cases, to enabling stars to do whatever they want.

In 2007, Lohan’s extra-curricular activities while staying at Hollywood’s Wonderland facility was rumored to have irked other rehab residents – she was pap-snapped stopping by the set of her movie, getting her Mercedes fixed, visiting her apartment, a little retail therapy and lunching with friends in Beverly Hills. She’s been back to treatment facilities five times since then.

“I have a friend who was in treatment with Lindsay one of those times and he said that rehab was more like a place where she would go to sleep while going about her regular life and that she was able to get out of all the groups and activities because she had work meetings,” David told us.

But addiction treatment facilities are businesses – and since the concept of the ritzy rehab boomed in Hollywood during the 1990s – it has become increasingly competitive. Plasma screens, yoga instructors, meditative koi ponds and opulent décor to rival that of the finest five-star resorts are all basic musts.  

“Hollywood rehabs have become more dangerous than the addicts themselves in some cases. Celebrities can get away with things as a lot of places want the media these celebs will bring,” explained alternative sentence expert Wendy Feldman, who works with courts to find appropriate facilities for troubled adults, and recently helped to smoothly facilitate Lindsay Lohan’s move from Betty Ford to Cliffside. “High-end accommodation does not mean high-end treatment.”

Others argue that the top-notch touch can serve a critical importance to one’s recovery.

“The emphasis on a nature retreat and not a lock-down cell or hospital,” human behavior expert Patrick Wanis, PhD, noted. “Also, by being luxurious and based in nature, the clinic can aid recovery because it helps the patient to feel safe and switch off from the outside world.”

But Harvard psychiatrist and author of “The Emotional Calendar,” Dr. John Sharp, said over-the-top luxury is counterproductive.

“Rehab is hard work,” he said. “The environment should be comfortable and conducive to working hard.”

Thankfully, not all facilities are impressed by the resumes of its clientele.

“The good facilities make a very strong effort to treat celebrities like all of the other patients,” added addiction specialist Dr. Damon Raskin. “Being treated differently is part of the problem… But celebs are used to the finer things in life, and probably wouldn’t stay in a facility without these things.”

And there are plenty of rehab success stories within the Hollywood circle.

Robert Downey Jr. spent the better part of five years in and out of rehab and jail, but is now sober going on 11 years and this year was declared the highest-paid actor in Hollywood per Forbes magazine. Just a few years after winning an Oscar, and right on the heels of his blockbuster film "Pearl Harbor," Ben Affleck checked himself into the ritzy Promises Malibu for alcohol addiction in 2001 – now successfully sober, his film “Argo” won Best Motion Picture at the Academy Awards.

After an arrest for driving under the influence in 2006 and a prior trip to rehab, Nicole Richie has turned her life around as a fashion icon, wife and mother. And despite still being under conservatorship, Britney Spears has managed to stay trouble-free and expand her career since her visit to Promises in 2007 and some subsequent bumps in the road.

So will the sixth time be a charm for Lindsay Lohan? Only time will tell…

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