Child stars are cute as a button, but outgrowing that adorable stage is just one of the many reasons why former child stars often turn to drug and alcohol abuse and engage in other risky behaviors, according to former child celebrity Mara Wilson, who starred in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire.
“You lose that praise. You lose what you had. And you are so used to it; it’s almost like a drug,” Wilson told Cracked.com in 2013. “And all of a sudden it’s like withdrawal. You just go off it, and you feel very rejected.”
Rejection, exploitation and a lack of parental supervision and support are just a few more reasons why so many child stars seem to lose their way and turn to substance abuse as a way to rebel or self-medicate—or both.
While some former child stars lose their lives to addiction, others recover and go on to do great things with the help of a quality rehab program, which, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is almost always necessary to overcome an addiction. Here are three famous young people who got the help they needed to turn their lives around for good.
Natasha Lyonne, who plays former heroin addict Nicky Nichols on the wildly popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black, was herself addicted to heroin until she got help in 2005.
Lyonne’s first big acting job was on Peewee’s Playhouse, which she landed at the age of six. Ten years later, at the age of 16, she was expelled for selling pot at her high school. Ten years after that, following charges of criminal mischief for harassing a neighbor, she was admitted to New York Hospital with a heroin addiction, hepatitis and a collapsed lung.
She was released in 2006 and continues to work on her recovery with the help of her close friends. “Spiraling into addiction is really scary,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2012. Happily, she’s found balance in her life. “I love not having secrets,” she says.
Pop sensation Demi Lovato got her acting start on the children’s show Barney & Friends and later joined the cast of Disney’s Camp Rock and signed a recording contract with Hollywood Records.
In 2010, at the age of 18, Lovato checked herself into rehab for a cocaine addiction and alcohol abuse after her family and management team held an intervention following an incident in which she punched one of her female dancers. Like many young people with an addiction, Lovato was also suffering from mental illness. In addition to an eating disorder, Lovato had long battled depression and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while in rehab.
Although she had bought a house in Los Angeles on her 18th birthday, Lovato chose to reside in a sober living home for a year following her completion of treatment to help ensure she wouldn’t relapse.
These days, she enjoys her sobriety as she continues working on her singing career. Lovato involves herself in a number of social and environmental causes, including mentoring teens and young adults who have mental health and substance abuse issues.
In 2014, she told Huffington Post that people don’t take addiction as seriously as they should.(4) She points out that at some point during her drug abuse, she no longer had a choice, because physically and mentally, she couldn’t live without cocaine. “[Addiction is] a mental illness and it’s a disease,” she said. “People need to have compassion for it.”
Drew Barrymore wears many hats these days, including that of actress, author, model, producer and director. But for a while in her early teens, she nearly went down a much different—and highly destructive—path.
At the age of seven, Barrymore landed the role of Gertie in Steven Spielberg’s ET: The Extraterrestrial. Because her father was addicted to alcohol and her mother was far more concerned with partying than mothering her daughter, Barrymore was largely unsupervised and turned to alcohol at the age of 11 and marijuana at age 12. When she was 13, she began abusing cocaine, and later that year, she was checked into a mental institution, where she remained for 18 months. Upon her release, she spent three months living with singer David Crosby and his wife, who saw that Barrymore needed to be around people who were committed to sobriety.
At the age of 15, Barrymore was able to legally separate from her parents, who had visited her only occasionally during her time in the hospital. She moved into her own place and got a job at a coffee shop before returning to show business at the urging of her boss, who saw that her acting talent was far greater than her coffee-slinging abilities.
In 2009, Barrymore told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she figured out her life by disconnecting from the people and the lifestyle she had been involved with. “There are a lot of us little gypsies out there that need to go and find another place,” she told Cooper. “A safer, healthier, or just a different venue in order to develop and find ourselves.”
Hope is the Foundation of Recovery
Overcoming an addiction isn’t easy, especially for young people whose brains are still developing and who have little life experience to help guide them. But with a high level of support from friends and family, recovery is possible.
The most important thing is to believe that your loved one can and will recover. Hope is the foundation of recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which stresses the importance of holding onto your hope and expressing it to your loved one. In doing so, you let him know that you believe in his ability to achieve sobriety, and you instill hope in his own heart for a better future free of addiction.
With professional help and a high level of hope and support from those who love them, Lyonne, Lovato and Barrymore were all able to overcome an addiction. Your child may not be famous, but he, too, can recover from an addiction and go on to achieve great things.
Call us at 877-466-0620 to learn more about our addiction treatment services.