Robert Downey Jr. Rehab Success

photo of Robert Downey Jr.

The Comeback Kid

His Life Nearly Destroyed by Drugs, Robert Downey Jr. Found Love and Fought His Way to Recovery.

For too long other priorities led Downey down a darker path. The son of film director Robert Downey Sr. and actor Elsie Ford, Downey dropped out of Santa Monica High School to act, landing a gig on Saturday Night Live at 20. A slew of roles in movies like 1987’s Less than Zero followed, and in 1992 Downey landed the title role—and an Oscar nod—in Chaplin. But his struggles with drugs eclipsed his talent. In 1996 he was put on probation after an arrest for driving in Malibu with heroin, cocaine and a concealed .357 Magnum. For the next five years he was in and out of rehab and jail, doing time in California’s Corcoran State Prison in ’99 for failing to take a mandated sobriety test. In ’01 Downey was fired from Ally McBeal after another relapse.

It was a wake-up call. After another rehab stint, he slowly found his way to health by practicing yoga and kung fu, and by finding love with producer Susan Levin, 34, whom he wed in ’05. “She’s fantastic,” says Downey, who’s also devoted to his son Indio, 14, with first wife Deborah Falconer. “I’m not a walk in the park, and [Susan’s] a very complex and engaging person.” Downey, says Stiller, “talks a lot about how his wife and his son are his grounding forces.” Today his strongest drink is black tea. “My vice, it seems now, is creativity,” he says. “It’s all about living a normal, balanced life.”

Rehab Success Stories

Hammer (CNN Showbiz Tonight): Robert Downey, Jr. spent most of the 1990s in and out of southern California courtrooms, jails and rehab centers, hooked on cocaine, alcohol and methamphetamines. Downey couldn’t come to grips with his addiction.

Robert Downey Jr.: You know, there’s a reason it’s listed in American medical — you know, in books of disease.

Hammer: The headlines-making bouts with rehab eventually worked for Downey, who is now clean and sober and starring in movies like “Zodiac,” where he ironically plays a cocaine-addicted reporters, and in the summer blockbuster “Iron Man.”

Robert Downey Jr.: Part of that is largely a moral issue, but I think once you have an opportunity to get the help you need to get out of it, you just have to remember that sometimes that train doesn’t come back around for seven years.

Photo by Edgar Meritano, May 2008.

Related: Robin Williams Reflects on RehabMaradona Drug RehabEva Mendes on Rehab

Rehab Reality Check

Rehab Reality Check by Jerry Adler, Newsweek, provides a good, very cursory, overview of rehab treatment options.

residential treatment programs for the middle and upper classes have proliferated across both the geographic and the therapeutic maps. Heated disputes have erupted between proponents of different treatment models. This is exacerbated by a growing rivalry between old-guard institutions like the Ford Center, with its comparatively austere campuslike ambience, and the new class of superluxury rehab centers in ocean-view mansions that supplement the traditional 12-step approach with acupuncture, massage, equine therapy and Native American Talking Circles.

To John Schwarzlose, president and CEO of the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the blurring of lines between “spa” and “treatment center” is disheartening. “They say, ‘We have 500-count sheets.’ It trivializes what we do.”

In fact, with a few exceptions most residential programs run along broadly similar lines. The typical stay is a month, which might not be optimal but is as much as most insurance plans covered back in the 1980s when the programs were designed.

The exact form of therapy, he says, is less important than just the fact of seeking treatment. A year after completing a rehab program, about a third of alcoholics are sober, an additional 40 percent are substantially improved but still drink heavily on occasion, and a quarter have completely relapsed

I discussed some of my thoughts on this in Should Rehab be Enjoyed?

Related: Top 10 Luxury Rehab CentersBetty Ford CenterDrug Rehab Centers in Los Angeles

Quick Stats on Binge Drinking

From the Center for Disease Control (Aug, 2008):

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours. Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent.

* Approximately 92% of US adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days
* Although college students commonly binge drink, 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults over age 25
* The rate of binge drinking among men is 2 times the rate of women
* Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers
* About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks
* About 75% of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks
* The proportion of current drinkers that binge is highest in the 18 to 20 year old groups (51%)

Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including but not limited to

* Unintentional injuries (e.g. car crash, falls, burns, drowning).
* Intentional injuries (e.g. firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence).
* Alcohol poisoning.
* Sexually transmitted diseases.
* Unintended pregnancy.
* Children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
* High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
* Liver disease.
* Neurological damage.
* Sexual dysfunction.
* Poor control of diabetes.

Evidence-based interventions to prevent binge drinking and related harms include

* Increasing alcoholic beverage costs and excise taxes.
* Restricting the number of locations that sell alcoholic beverages in a given area.
* Consistent enforcement of laws against underage drinking and alcohol-impaired driving.
* Campus-based strategies to reduce high risk drinking among college students.
* Physician screening, counseling and/or referral for alcohol problems.

Related: Robin Williams Reflects on RehabUSA Alcohol Consumption Declining

Quitters: USA Alcohol Consumption Declining

Quitters: U.S. alcohol consumption declining

Overall alcohol use—particularly consumption of beer—is declining in the US, according to a new study published in the August 2008 issue of The American Journal of Medicine. Researchers examined 50 years of data and found several changes in alcohol intake but no change in alcohol use disorders. Americans are drinking significantly less beer and more wine, while hard liquor use has remained fairly constant. More people now report that they are non-drinkers. People born later in the 20th century drink more moderately than older people. As we age, our individual alcohol consumption goes down.

Writing in the article, Yuqing Zhang, DSc, Boston University School of Medicine, and his co-investigators state, “The findings in this study may be considered encouraging in many ways: the average amount of alcohol has decreased in more recently born cohorts, the percentage of the population exhibiting ‘moderate’ alcohol intake has been increasing steadily, and the percentage reporting ‘heavy’ drinking has decreased over time…