After years of public speculation, Paula Abdul has revealed that she suffered for years from a reliance on pain medication — a habit that left her close to death and in a rehabilitation facility.
The "American Idol" judge disclosed her ordeal in an interview with Ladies' Home Journal. "I could have killed myself," the 46-year-old Abdul told the magazine.
She has suffered from chronic pain since a high school cheerleading accident left her with an injured disc in her neck and has since experienced injuries like a broken leg, sustained while rehearsing in 1991; a neck injury in a 1992 car crash; and partial paralysis in a 1993 airplane crash that required 15 spinal surgeries. To continue performing through a hectic schedule, Abdul relied on prescription painkillers, injections of lidocaine and Chinese medicine.
"I couldn't cancel my tour. I didn't want anyone to count me out," she said. "I tried to keep everything hush-hush."
Several years ago, Abdul was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, a chronic neurological condition characterized by severe burning pain and tissue swelling. The disorder also caused teeth-chattering and skin lesions for Abdul.
The "Idol" judge wore a patch that delivered a dose of medication approximately 80 times more powerful than morphine, took a nerve medication to relieve her symptoms and occasionally used a muscle relaxer. But the pain became so severe that it disrupted her sleep and left her acting "weird," Abdul admitted, an acknowledgement of the sometimes-bizarre behavior she displayed on the "American Idol" set.
In a 2005 interview, Abdul claimed she was not hooked on pain medication. "Drugs?" she said to People magazine. "I'm not addicted to pills of any kind." But last fall, Abdul finally checked into the La Costa Resort & Spa, a rehab facility in Carlsbad, California.
"I could have killed myself," Abdul told Ladies' Home Journal. "Withdrawal — it's the worst thing. I was freezing cold, then sweating hot, then chattering and in so much pain. It was excruciating. But at my very core, I did not like existing the way I had been."