In May 2013, Dr. Drew Pinsky announced that he would no longer be continuing the VH1 series Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Dr. Drew is an addiction specialist and media personality. The show took place at the Pasadena Recovery Center where celebrities were treated for addiction. At the time, the show had run for 6 seasons and had endured five Celebrity Rehab deaths due to various causes. There would be at least one more to follow.
The series claimed to “unflinchingly document the treatment process, a painful and deeply emotional journey that offers hope for a better future, if not a guarantee of sobriety.” The following are all of the known Celebrity Rehab deaths of cast members from the series, all of which were related to substance abuse or suicide.
Joan Laurer (aka Chyna, Season 1)
On April 20th, 2016, 46-year-old former professional wrestler and adult film star Chyna was found deceased in the home in Redondo Beach. Thus, she became the sixth cast member from the series to die. Her death was first reported as a “possible overdose.” It is believed that she was taking prescription drugs for both anxiety and insomnia and had medications nearby when she was found.
In 2008, Laurer appeared on Dr. Drew amid concerns that she was an addict and alcoholism. In September 2010, Laurer was hospitalized after overdosing on sleeping medication.
Mindy McCready (Season 3)
On February 17th, 2013, 37-year-old country singer Mindy McCready committed suicide at her home in Arkansas. County sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of gunshots at 3:31 p.m. They subsequently discovered McCready’s body on the front porch of her Heber Springs home. She was pronounced dead at the scene from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In January, McCready’s life partner (and the father of one of her children) singer-songwriter David Wilson, also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Just three weeks later, a judge ordered McCready to be committed to a treatment center to cope with mental health and alcohol abuse.
She was the fifth among Celebrity Rehab deaths. She appeared in Season 3, stating she drank and took anti-anxiety medication.
Joey Kovar (Season 3)
Joey Kovar, age 29, was a former model, bodybuilder and cast member from MTV’s The Real World: Hollywood in 2008. He was treated on the show for addictions to alcohol, cocaine, meth, and steroids.
He died of opiate intoxication on August 17, 2012, two months to the day after Rodney King. The initial cause of death was believed to be related to a mix of cocaine and alcohol, however, 3 months after his death it was ruled an accidental opiate overdose. He was discovered with blood coming from his nose and ears at an apartment building in Chicago Ridge, Illinois.
Rodney King (Season 2)
Rodney King was famous for a videotape in which he was intoxicated and beaten by police in March 1991, during the Los Angeles riots. King successfully sued the city and won $3.8 million. He later went on to write a book and make a movie about his life. He was treated in season 2 of Celebrity Rehab for alcoholism, and also appeared in the VH1 spinoff series Sober House.
King was found by his fiancé deceased on June 17, 2012, lying face down in a swimming pool with alcohol, PCP, and cocaine in his system.
Jeff Conaway (Seasons 1 & 2)
Jeff Conaway, 60, was a star of Grease and participated in the first two seasons of Celebrity Rehab. On the show, he was treated for alcoholism, cocaine, and painkiller addictions.
He died on May 27, 2011, just a few weeks after Mike Starr (Season 3). The cause of death was listed as sepsis, pneumonia, encephalopathy, and drug overdose. He was found unconscious in his home 16 days prior to his death. It is believed that his drug use impaired his ability to understand how seriously ill he was. He was hospitalized and coma-induced, but shortly before his death, his family took him off life support when doctors stated there was nothing else they could do for him.
Mike Starr (Season 3)
Mike Starr was a 44-year-old former bassist for the rock group Alice in Chains, died of a prescription drug overdose on March 8, 2011. Police were called to a home in Salt Lake City, UT, at 1:47 p.m. where they found Starr’s body. He became the first fatality of five more Celebrity Rehab deaths to follow.
Starr was treated on the Dr. Drew show for various addictions, including heroin, cocaine, meth, and methadone. At the time of his death, he was facing drug possession charges in Salt Lake City for the prescription opioid Opana and Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication.
Others Who Relapsed
Unfortunately, other celebrity patients of Dr. Drew appear to have suffered lapses in sobriety, including the following:
Kari Ann Peniche, actress, model, and former Teen USA 2002 (Season 3) was believed to have returned to meth use by 2012. This was suggested by her husband (estranged at the time), the father of their 10-month-old baby, whom he claimed had also tested positive for meth.
Seth Binzer, aka Shifty Shellshock of the rap-rock group Crazy Town, starred on Seasons 1 & 2 of both Celebrity Rehab and Sober House. He struggled with both cocaine and alcohol addiction, and in February 2012, he was arrested for cocaine possession. In April of that year, he fell into a coma while hospitalized, although the reason for this was not revealed.
Apparently 2012 was a bad year for Celebrity Rehab alumni. Also in that year, actress/model Brigitte Nielsen, who was treated in Season 1 for alcoholism, appeared to be intoxicated as she smoked cigarettes and drank from what appeared to be a vodka bottle in a public park.
Getting Help for Substance Abuse
Abusing substances in any form can result in adverse mental and physical consequences as well as social, legal, and financial issues. If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse, we urge you to seek professional treatment as soon as possible.
Just Believe Recovery offers comprehensive, individualized programs intended to provide clients with tools and support they need to navigate the recovery process and sustain long-term happiness and sobriety.