Money, Family and Indulgence Put Young at Risk for Addiction

Hollywood's "culture of indulgence" could put Lohan at risk for addiction.

February 10, 2009, 8:41 AM

July 25, 2007 — -- "Lindsay, call me."

That's the message recovering drug addict Daniel Baldwin has for Lindsay Lohan, he tells ABC News, one day after the troubled 21-year-old was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and possession of cocaine.

Lohan's latest train wreck comes only two weeks after she left Promises rehab center with an alcohol detector around her ankle. It was her second go at sobriety in a year.

Hollywood's most famous rehabbing brother has been sober for eight months since completing rehab at nearby Renaissance Malibu, where he says the 90-day program helped him go straight.

"I have reached out to offer my services if she wants help," said Baldwin, who was critical of the care Lohan had received at Promises.

"She's a beautiful woman," said Baldwin. "She is digging herself out of another hole and it happened so soon after she got out."

But is the wild starlet a self-professed "dire-hard" addict, as Baldwin claims to be?

"There are two stereotypes: those who wake up in the morning and shake until they have another drink, and there are those like Lindsay whose life comes at them, and they feel things they don't want to feel," said Baldwin. "They numb themselves."

"If I have a flat tire and my front end is going, if I fix the front end and don't fix the back end, the front will go again," he said. "Lindsay needs to get her tires fixed."

Addiction has multifaceted components and there are no clear lines between what some call chemical addition and others see as a behavioral problem, according to Marc Fishman, medical director of Maryland Treatment Center at Johns Hopkins University.

"It's behavioral, physiological and psychological," said Fishman. "The syndrome involves the brain, the mind and the spirit."

Often, as in Lohan's case, young people start by experimenting with alcohol or drugs, but soon getting high accelerates into a pattern of reinforcement — hanging out with others who do the same.

"Each bit of use reinforces more, and by that time your brain receptors are hooked, the brain is enslaved and you really aren't having fun anymore," said Fishman.

Many risk factors feed addiction. Genetics and family history predispose certain people to addiction. And the younger a user, the greater likelihood of harm and resistance to treatment.

Sometimes a person's innate tolerance to drugs or alcohol is higher, which can make them more vulnerable to addiction.

"You hear in college, 'The liver is a muscle, just practice.' But some people can inherently take more alcohol with fewer negative consequences like headaches and throwing up," he said. "The goodies outweigh the baddies."

Thrill seeking as a personality trait might also play a role, as well as risk factors like economics — both poverty and, as in the case of Lohan, wealth can lead to addiction problems.

"What is germane to her case is the subculture of wealth that you see in sports and in Hollywood," said Fishman. "It's a microculture of indulgence. Most kids don't have millions of dollars in disposable income. Most have constraints with lots of rules and parental monitoring to keep the appetites of kids in check."

Good parenting is crucial in raising healthy children who are not vulnerable to addiction, according to Fishman.

"Monitoring, intervention and sticking your nose in is good for kids," he said.

New studies in neuroscience have shown that the part of the brain that regulates impulse control — or mature judgment — is not fully developed until the age of 25. When exposed to multimillion-dollar movie contracts, "unchecked kids are not able to handle these things," Fishman said.

Beverly Hills, Calif., celebrity psychologist Jenn Berman, who wrote the "A-Z Guide to Raising Happy Competent Kids," suggests Lohan's dysfunctional family and role as a child star have created much of the trauma in her life.

"People who don't have the tools to cope turn to food, alcohol, drugs and compulsive behavior," she said.

As for those who say Lohan has been spiraling out of control to get attention, Berman said, "I don't believe anyone does this consciously, … If anything it's a cry for help that comes from a very unconscious place."

"When the child starts to earn more money than the parent and supports the family, there is a shift in power," Berman said. "The parent is on the child's payroll and loses power. That makes the life of the child boundary-less."

If Lohan does not seek help, said Berman, "she will ultimately self-destruct."

"Drew Barrymore really got it together," Berman said of the former child star who nearly lost her career over drugs. "But she had a strong sense of self and was a real fighter."

The fact that Lohan has "slipped back" after two visits to rehab is "the nature of addiction," according to Daniel Gatlin, director of Renaissance Malibu, where Baldwin was treated.

"You are very raw and you need to learn new skills," said Gatlin. "It's like starting over. A child stumbles and falls and yet you don't say he is never going to walk again."

Having a support system during the transition back to a sober, normal life is also essential.

Scotty Brown, a 46-year-old Malibu real estate agent, helped guide Baldwin through his recovery.

"He just called me at 1:30 in the morning and he's doing great," said Brown.

Brown, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 23 years, was not surprised to hear that Lohan was drunk again, even though he had seen her sober at a party given by Paris Hilton on the Fourth of July.

"I think she has an addiction problem," said Brown, whose parents locked him up in a psychiatric ward in 1984 when he hit bottom.

"When someone becomes famous when they are growing up, using drugs helps with their fame," said Brown. "They are afraid of giving it up and losing everything. But it backfires. It's hard to see what life will be like without it."

Brown, who has mentored other celebrities with drug problems, like Scott Weiland of the Stone Temple Pilots, said, "You've got to want it and be sick and tired of being sick and tired."

"There can be no intervention if you're not ready," he said. "This may be the bottom for Lindsay. Rehab may give her the tools, but she's just got to surrender."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, visit The National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse.