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Social Worker: Charlie Sheen May Discourage People from Getting Addiction Help

The antics of celebrities such Charlie Sheen may make it more difficult for the public  to realize the benefits of drug and alcohol addiction treatment, said a social worker from a program that has helped guests who appeared on A&E’s hit  series Intervention.

“Intervention is talking about a solution and then you have Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan,” said David Houke, LMSW, who in February was picked to be the new clinical director at Burning Tree Lodge in Elgin, TX.

Charlie Sheen, photo courtesy of AP. Inset: David Houke, courtesy of Linkedin.

Charlie Sheen, who stars on the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” has publicly criticized Alcoholics Anonymous and is now claiming he has cured himself of addiction, according to news reports.

Celebrities such as Sheen may go into treatment for a few weeks, go back to work and fall back into addiction.  

“Any alcohol or drugs change neurochemistry — addiction is a neurochemical disease,” Houke said. “People are not making good judgments at 30 to 60 days. They still need lots of support.”

It would be better if  addicts such as Sheen went into treatment for as long as it takes to recover, said Houke, who earned his master’s degree in social work at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.

“That is the approach Burning Tree takes,” Houke said. “Clients deserve an opportunity to be successful at the least restrictive level of care.”

Some addicts can get sober and stay sober with 30- or 90-day course of treatment or even on an outpatient basis, he said. However, those who relapse need more intensive and structured long-term care that can last as long as nine to 14 months, Houke said.

Intervention is airing its 10th season. The program shows the efforts of family and friends to persuade loved ones to get treatment from addictions ranging from drugs and alcohol to eating disorders and self cutting.

Burning Tree contacted the program and offered scholarships to bring guests to its Texas facilities for treatment. “The show itself brings a hope to some people that they really can make a difference in a family members’ life,” Houke said.

However, he echoed the criticism of other social workers who said Intervention should focus more on recovery and less on the chaotic lives of people with addictions before they go into treatment. Often, social workers are there after the cameras stop shooting to help those who are battling addictions.

In fact, Houke said he prefers using social workers rather than experts from other caring professions. That is because social workers are trained to help people with addictions deal with legal, family, psychological and other issues surrounding them.

A view of Burning Tree Ranch in Kaufman, TX.

“I’ve had better luck with social workers because they can see the big picture,” he said. “I am a firm believer you can’t treat someone in a vacuum. The spouse and parents have to be involved.”

Houke, 49, knows what he is talking about. A Chicago native, Houke earned a bachelor’s degree in retail management  and started his career. However, he also started a drug habit that worsened.

“Cocaine caused the most trouble,” he said.

Houke said drugs had beaten him into submission by the time he went for treatment at Breckenridge Hospital in Austin, TX. However, a social worker there helped guide him to recovery. “They asked me if I would like to try something different,” he said.

The social worker inspired Houke so much that he decided to go back to college to get a social work degree so he could help others. He has been sober for 21 years. talked with Intervention creator and executive producer Sam Mettler in 2010. To read that interview click here. And to learn more about how social workers help people overcome addictions, visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Addictions Web site by clicking here.

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  1. Oh COME ON. Any excuse for the failures we face….Linsey Lohan, Charlie Sheen, MTV ….What ever happen to ‘owning it?” And as far as these intervension programs go, well it is just another form of making money off the addict. Explotation. In fact I wanted applaud Charlie Sheen when he said he did it on his own….Of course, NA wouldn’t be happy to hear it. The only people NA or AA help is those who change under peer pressure. Those with confidence or egos don’t do so well with someone telling them what to do.
    Lets face it. NO ONE GETS CLEAN THAT DOESN’T WANT TO…except in jail I suppose. It is a choice. A desease, and a choice. How you chose to deal with your desease is a personal choice. Probation and the courts keep sending the addict to NA and they do fine, some, until they get off of probation. You can’t make someone stay clean. It is a choice. AND that is what Charile was trying to say.

  2. One of the biggest problems with our society is education about the human body. People don’t understand how alcohol and drugs change our neurochemistry and thus make foolish statements about addiction. What happened to education in America?

  3. David did a great job defining what Burning Tree does. And Charlie Sheen seems like he could benefit from long term structured treatment.

  4. Has anyone considered that Charlie Sheen suffers bipolar disorder that he’s historically self-medicated with drugs, alcohol and women? The co-occuring disorder makes things exponentially hard for him to see the need for longer-term treatment and recovery. Lindsey Lohan is like many addicts—her ‘Stinking Thinking” kicks in to sabotage her recovery attempts.

    I am a fan of the show “Intervention” because it can help other addicts and loved ones see hope for their lives. I used to serve as a NASW resource from the Clinical Register for folks calling from the Jerry Springer Show. There are thousands of people who see something on TV, think “OMG that’s me!” and call for help!

    David needs to keep up his great work. In the meantime, I will pray for his endeavors and for Mr. Sheen and Ms. Lohan.

  5. I think this is a great article. I attended Burning Tree programs for 15 months..thats what it took for me and today is actually my 5 yr sober anniversary. Charlie Sheen needs treatment and he is not cured of anything. I dont ever recommend 30-90 day treatment facilities to anyone i was still crazy during that time it takes what it takes if u really want it. Im grateful for Burning Tree and my sobriety I wouldnt be sober today if i didnt learn to live my life there.

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