Published August 27, 2010
Some may consider Lindsay Lohan lucky for getting sprung from jail and rehab early. The young star served just 22 of the 90-day court ordered drug and alcohol program at UCLA. In reality, her doctors aren't doing her any favors. After two DUI convictions and countless reprimands from judges, cops and movie producers for not only breaking the law but for being notoriously unreliable, this gal clearly has a substance abuse problem and it's one that can't be fixed in just 22 days.
According to TMZ.com, the rehab staff at UCLA told Judge Elden Fox that Lohan was ready to be released early, but talk to any drug and alcohol counselor and they'll tell you that's nuts.
Dr. Keith Ablow, a board certified adult, adolescent and forensic psychiatrist and Fox News contributor says many addicts go right back to using drugs and alcohol after rehab but adds, “when a person sticks with the program there’s more hope.”
Perhaps you don’t care about Lohan’s sobriety and that’s fine, but there is a bigger issue—public safety. Let me put it this way, I wouldn’t want to be a passenger in her car, next to her on the roadway or a pedestrian on the street if she’s behind the wheel. The consequences of untreated addiction can be deadly.
Doctors and therapists at UCLA didn’t give Lohan much of a chance to truly rehabilitate herself. UCLA staff concluded that Lohan had been misdiagnosed and was erroneously prescribed a cocktail of prescription drugs that fueled her erratic behavior. Substance abuse isn't that simple--it's a far more complex diagnosis. Addiction is part chemical, part genetic and part psychological. Bottom line--there's a reason she's abusing drugs and alcohol but that can take months or years to uncover and repair.
At best, three weeks of care in a medical facility "detoxed" her, meaning that drugs and alcohol have been successfully cleansed from her system. After detox, that’s when the real work begins and addicts can start to think with a clear mind. But these therapists shortchanged her. Letting her out early allows Lohan to return to her old life, home and friends, which only enabled her destructive behavior in the first place. Ablow says her court sentence should have specified a return to prison if she left rehab prematurely.
Now that she’s out, she’s required to participate in an outpatient treatment program, but that’s not intense enough. Addicts need more supervision and accountability. Under this regimen, Lohan can sleep at home and simply attend a few weekly therapy sessions and 12-step meetings. The LA Times reports that she will have to submit to random drug and alcohol testing twice a week, and if misses or fails any drug tests, she will be sent back to jail for 30 days. But why give her this leeway after two DUI convictions and a cocaine charge -- which Judge Fox dismissed Wednesday -- and a history of failing to comply with court orders?
Dr. Ablow says the system is bending to accommodate her fame. "The fact that treatment providers, the judicial system and the penal system seem to elevate her career over her well-being and fail to provide comprehensive treatment for her disorder can confirm in her mind that no one truly cares enough to help her--that she is a product, not a person."
What she really needs is constant medical and psychological supervision, the kind that can only be administered in a program that lasts longer than 22 days and is more intense than an out-patient program.
Reputable in-patient programs don’t allow clients to leave the premises, put limits on visitors and outside contact and require participation in daily group and individual therapy sessions in addition to mandatory attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Some of the tougher programs insist that clients clean bathrooms and perform other chores, in part, to show them that all addicts are just that—addicts—no one is better than another regardless of fame or privilege.
I’ve spent time in treatment facilities as a reporter and learned that-- like any business-- they need to market themselves to a clientele capable of paying the bills. Celebs who are pampered in real life are more likely to sign up for rehab if the staff is lenient and the sheets are made of Egyptian cotton. California is ground zero for these cushy places.
I’ve also spent emotionally painful weeks in treatment facilities visiting close family and friends and have participated in numerous professional drug and alcohol interventions. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work for patients. I know that a failure to address addiction can lead to serious injury or death of the addict or an innocent bystander. Let’s hope that’s not the case with this young star.
Heather Nauert is an anchor and correspondent for Fox based in New York.
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