By Maria Puente
Singer Whitney Houston's death last month from accidental drowning from the effects of cocaine use and heart disease throws bright light on a dark corner of the world of celebrities who wrestle with substance abuse.
The toll of celebrity addiction -- to street drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol or a mix -- is long and mournful, and seems particularly heavy right now thanks to the deaths of Houston, 48, and Amy Winehouse, 27 .
And not just them: In recent years, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith have succumbed to overdoses; going back further, the list includes John Belushi, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Judy Garland.
Americans these days can't escape the steady stream of news about celebrities and their controlled substances. Take Lindsay Lohan, 25. After years of erratic behavior, multiple arrests and five stints in rehab, Lohan says she's finally cleaned up her act. She promises to stay away from drugs and alcohol , and even completed her comeback gig hosting Saturday Night Live March 3 (the ratings were good but the reviews were mixed).
Recent weeks also brought news that Scottish actor Gerard Butler (300), 42, and comedian Artie Lange,44 , both successfully completed rehab for addiction and are back working. But actress Demi Moore, 49, who was hospitalized after smoking something that gave her convulsions , sought "professional assistance" for her problem. And Australian actor Alex O'Loughlin, star of CBS's Hawaii Five-0, has announced he would take time off to get "supervised treatment" for pain drugs prescribed after a recent shoulder injury.
This sort of thing is not uncommon in Hollywood: Actress Tatum O'Neal, 48, who comes from a family of addicts and has long battled to overcome substance abuse, also is in "supervised treatment" to prevent a recurrence of addiction, to painkillers recently prescribed for back surgery. "She will always seek supervision when taking prescription medication that has addictive potential," according to a statement issued by her manager, Angela Cheng Caplan.
But it's fair to ask: Is there a fatal attraction between celebs and controlled substances? Why do some survive and some die? How do you step away from addiction when the spotlight is always on?
"It's that caustic mix of sudden celebrity and being strung out and it being condoned by the people around you," says Duff McKagan, 48, the original bass player for rock band Guns N' Roses and a longtime drug and alcohol addict who had to nearly die from an exploding pancreas in 1994 at age 30 before he was motivated to get help. His mother weeping in her wheelchair over her youngest child, and his eventual discovery of the physical and spiritual strengths of martial arts also helped, he says.Continue Reading: usatoday.com