It seems that all too often we hear of yet another celebrity who’s going to rehab. In the hard-partying, high-flying world of Hollywood, rehab practically seems par for the course. But when celebrities open up about their drug and alcohol addictions, it’s actually really important.
Ben Affleck, for instance, divulged last week that he recently returned from a second bout in rehab. After completing a stint at Malibu’s Promises in 2001 for alcohol addiction, he shared that he recently went back for another round of treatment at an unspecified location.
In a post on Facebook, Ben wrote, “I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction; something I’ve dealt with in the past and will continue to confront.” While this seems like a simple statement, it actually carries a lot of weight.
Relapse Does Not Equal Failure
The fact that Affleck has only been to rehab twice is laudable in and of itself. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 75 percent of those entering treatment for alcohol abuse relapse at some point. And importantly, NIDA clarifies that relapse should be regarded as a step on the journey to sobriety rather than as a failure. Relapse should be seen as a signal that different treatment is required, NIDA asserts.
Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply imbedded behaviors, and relapse does not mean treatment has failed. For a person recovering from addiction, lapsing back to drug use indicates that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted or that another treatment should be tried.
Treatment Helps, But It’s Not Foolproof
In a 2006 study of almost 700 people, those who did not receive help encountered a relapse rate of 60 percent. Compared to a relapse rate of just over 40 percent for individuals who did seek help, this study speaks to the varying nature of addiction—Alcoholics Anonymous, therapy and other sources of addiction counseling were demonstrably effective in reducing relapse rates, but they still existed in large percentages.
People shamed Charlie Sheen for his battle with addiction after his very public meltdown in 2011. He had previously attended rehab twice—once in 1998 and once in 2010. But as easy as it is to look down on the largely unlovable Charlie Sheen, his story was a missed opportunity about the revolving door of rehab.
It’s impossible to say how many times an addicted person will return to a treatment center because there’s no standardized definition of what rehab is. According to a story from the Washington Post, rehab fails to work for a majority of addicted Americans. Many programs fail their customers, the article says, because relapse is blamed entirely on the individual and not at all on the treatment center.
Affleck’s return to rehab, in this case, is an important window into the world of addiction and treatment. As a sympathetic figure (despite his nasty public split from ex-wife Jennifer Garner), he can attract positive attention to the topic of relapse as being part of the road to recovery.
Addiction is increasingly making it way to Middle America—for the first time, more people are dying from drug overdoses in rural areas than in big cities. As the addiction crisis continues to grow, relapse and rehabilitation are subjects with which we should all acquaint ourselves. The issue isn’t going away any time soon, and celebrities with clout can—and should—be a voice for people struggling with their own addictions.