Though a drug overdose is suspected, Los Angeles police have not yet determined what substance killed actor [movieperson id="26147"]Corey Haim[/movieperson], 38. But for addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky, Wednesday's (March 10) headlines offered a sadly similar refrain.
"I never met Corey, but people brought his name up to me hundreds of times, and as I'm sure I've told you, this is just the beginning of a tidal wave of more of this," he said. "My patients are dying every day from medication prescribed by my peers. And it's not just young Hollywood but all kinds of people, and you don't need illicit drugs anymore because pharmaceuticals are just as powerful."
Haim struggled with addiction to crack, alcohol and prescription medication for years. TMZ has reported that a number of prescription-medication bottles were found near the actor's body and that his mother confirmed that he'd long struggled with a pill addiction.
Pinsky, host of VH1's "Celebrity Rehab," never treated Haim but said he was the kind of star who might have benefited from being on the show. "I can't confirm it, but I just heard that our producers had reached out to him, and he reacted enraged and insulted, like, 'How dare you!' " Pinsky said. "Which is a shame, because he would have really been helped. All I know is that our outcomes are pretty good, and there's something about the cameras and doing it publicly that holds people accountable and makes them want to be an inspiration to other people."
Following on the heels of the deaths of Heath Ledger and recovering addict DJ AM, who died from a combination of legal and illicit drugs, as well as Brittany Murphy, who died from a combination of pneumonia and an over-the-counter-drug overdose, Pinsky said Haim's death is a sad continuation of a trend he's seen developing for more than five years.
"It's so easy to get these medications, and sometimes well-meaning physicians who don't understand addiction prescribe them for legitimate reasons, like in DJ AM's case," said Pinsky, referring to the anti-anxiety meds AM took following the fiery plane crash in 2008 that he and Travis Barker survived. "But they start taking them and don't realize the trouble they're getting into." Sometimes, it's merely a form of denial on the part of the addict, Pinsky said, a feeling of "the doctor is prescribing them and I feel better, so it must be OK."
But, especially with former addicts, that feeling subsides and it leads to the same escalating addiction behavior. "Addiction is a deadly disease, and the prognosis is worse than most cancers," said Pinsky, who predicted that some of the high-profile patients he's treated on his show may end up dying because of the disease.