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Seventh Dr. Drew Rehab Participant Jason Davis Dies at 35

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Actor Jason Davis has died at the age of 35, according to multiple reports, on Sunday. Davis is best known for voicing Mikey in the Disney animated series, “Recess,” from 1997 to 2001. He also had roles in TV series such as “7th Heaven” and “Roseanne.” A cause of death has not been announced.

“Jason had a true heart of gold with such a zest for life,” his mother Nancy Davis told the Hollywood Reporter in a statement. “He was such a caring soul to everybody who ever knew him. He loved his friends and his family above all else. We ask for privacy as we take time to grieve this most devastating loss.”

Davis was open with his struggle with addiction, which included co-founding the nonprofit Cure Addiction Now. He participated in Dr. Drew Pinsky’s TV reality series “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew” on VH1 in 2010. He is the seventh person who appeared on the reality TV series to have died. In addition to Davis, “Dr. Drew” participants Chyna, Rodney King, Mindy McCready, Joey Kovar, Jeff Conaway and Mike Starr died, though not all of their deaths were addiction- or mental health-related.

“Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew” ran for six seasons and put nearly 50 people through treatment for addiction in a series of dramatic confrontations that ended at Pasadena Recovery Center in Southern California for treatment. Pinsky aided clients in their journey to recovery with substance abuse expert Bob Forrest.

After each death, Pinsky faced significant backlash from critics who called out the show as an inherent conflict of interest that put the celebrities who appeared on the show at risk, likening the show to other predatory rehab centers that prey on people facing addiction for profit.

“If you’re going to focus strictly on celebrities, it seems really exploitative,” Gary Stromberg, author of 2007’s The Harder They Fall: Celebrities Tell Their Real Life Stories of Addiction and Recovery, told the Hollywood Reporter. “And doing it on television — are Dr. Drew’s intentions to help people, or is he doing it to get good ratings? The bottom line is that this is not a game.”

“The problem here is that Dr. Drew benefits from their participation, which must have some powerful effects on his way of relating to them,” Dr. John J. Mariani, director of the substance treatment and research service at Columbia University, told the New York Times. “He also has a vested interest in the outcome of their treatment being interesting to viewers, which is also not in their best interest. Treatment with conflicts of interest isn’t treatment.”

Pinsky denied the accusations that his actions were motivated by anything other than his patient’s best interests. He highlighted that addiction is a difficult disease, and relapse is common, especially without ongoing treatment and support. Pinsky also pointed out that many people did get sober thanks to “Celebrity Rehab” despite what critics said.

After McCready died by suicide in 2013, Pinsky announced he was stopping the show because he was tired of the backlash after former participants died.

“I don’t have plans to do that again. I’m tired of taking all the heat. It’s just ridiculous,” Pinsky told Today in 2013, adding:

It’s very stressful and very intense for me to have people questioning my motives and taking aim at me because people get sick and die because they have a life-threatening disease, and I take the blame? Rodney King has a heart attack and I take blame for that?

In 2018, the state revoked Pasadena Recovery Center’s license after investigating a client’s death and in reference to numerous other violations. It now operates as a sober living facility instead.

Colleagues, friends and fans reacted to his death on Twitter and shared condolences. 

Header images via Facebook and Twitter

Originally published: February 18, 2020
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