- (Photo: Reuters/J T Lovette)
Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and Winona Ryder are all high-profile entertainers who have been forced to battle their addictions to prescription medication publicly. Ryan Leaf, 35-year-old former NFL quarterback and college football assistant coach, seems to be the latest entertainer to endure the public battle with addiction to prescription medication which may change his life forever.
Leaf was arrested twice in four days for two burglary attempts where he allegedly stole prescription medication recently. After years of battling with addiction that resulted in him being put on probation for 10 years, his next battle may be trying to stay out of prison.
Leaf, a former Washington State quarterback who turned professional before a stint as the West Texas A&M assistant coach, was arrested on both Friday afternoon and Monday morning in his Great Falls, Mont. hometown. The former NFL player's arrest on Friday stemmed from police finding oxycodone pills in his golf bag after an acquaintance alleged that he had stolen them.
Although Leaf was able to pay a $76,000 bond, he allegedly broke into another home and stole prescription medication, leading to another arrest on Monday. However, this is not the first time that a drug related incident has caused Leaf to run into trouble with the law.
In 2010, Leaf pleaded guilty to eight drug-related charges in Texas after he illegally obtained and used painkillers as an assistant coach at West Texas A&M. However, a deferred adjudication and a guilty plea, which was not filed, allowed him to serve a 10 year probation period.
After two years and two recent incidents that involve substance abuse and theft, a Randall County, Texas district attorney said he would try to revoke Leaf's probation.
"We now have possession of the incident reports and the charging documents from Montana. It appears that he has been charged with two counts of burglary and more than one count of possession of dangerous drugs in Montana," Randall County district attorney James Farren said. "We will be filing a motion to revoke his probation, alleging those are violations of the condition of his probation in Texas. Our recommendation will be that he be sent to the penitentiary."
However, Ben Levenson, co-founder and CEO of Origins Recovery Centers, highlighted the importance of recognizing that Leaf has issues with addiction and needs help.
"Beyond what you may think of Ryan as a former NFL quarterback, he is a human being with a very powerful prescription pain medicine addiction. What most Americans don't understand is that more people are dying from prescription pain medications than heroin and cocaine combined," Levenson said. "And, in the same vain as the crack epidemic of the 1980's and 90's, we are seeing a vicious cycle of violence and crime associated with these physician prescribed drugs. We hope the legal system understands Ryan's addiction and helps him receive the treatment he so desperately requires."
However, Leaf is not the only celebrity who has had issues with addiction to prescription medication recently.
Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino, a cast member of MTV's The Jersey Shore, recently made headlines after it was discovered that he had been taking 20-30 pills a day.
"Mike was taking unbelievable amounts of Dilaudid along with Xanax and Ambien. Mike was taking about 20-30 pills a day which easily could have killed him," Perez Hilton reported. "Mike is very lucky that he didn't overdose and die, because the amount of prescription drugs was that high and deadly. It was very easy for Mike to get the prescription drugs, and he got them from more than one doctor."
Some believe that the pressure of fame may cause high-profile figures like Leaf and Sorrentino to turn to prescription medication. Nicki Minaj, platinum selling recording artist, recently weighed in on the battle with addiction and fame on her new album.
On the track "Press Conference" that is featured on Minaj's sophomore album, "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded," the 29-year-old rapper speaks about the pressure of being a celebrity forcing some to turn to substance abuse.
"For you to be able to get up there and do music that people love, and do interviews with a smile on your face and act like this (expletive) ain't getting to you, it's draining. That's why so many artists go on drugs or become alcoholics," Minaj admitted. "When I was coming up, I never understood it. I use to be like, 'What? They are so ungrateful, why are they on drugs, why don't they (expletive) appreciate their success, I would kill to be where they are', until you get here and you are like, 'Lord is this the price I have to pay if I really want this.'"
Levenson agreed with Minaj, saying that celebrities may be more prone to addiction due to their lifestyle.
"The mentality that often accompanies fame and celebrity, self-absorption, entitlement, is fuel for addiction. Prescription drug addiction has infiltrated all walks of life, and it causes more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined," Levenson said. "Unfortunately, celebrities are even more susceptible to addiction because they are usually surrounded by an entourage of well-intentioned enablers. When job security and status are based upon keeping a celebrity happy, people are less likely to initiate an unpleasant intervention."
Although Leaf is currently being held in jail a Cascade County, Mont. regional jail for up to 30 days until his paperwork is completed between Texas and Montana, he could face up to 20 years in prison if his probation has been violated. Levenson urged people in similar situations to seek help and hold onto their faith.
"Addicts, who possess a foundation in Christianity, have a ready-made community for worship and support," Levenson said. "If someone finds themselves or a loved one in a situation where they're consumed by pills or any addiction, they need to find a long-term, individually focused treatment center."