"I never wanted to shame my family, so I just stopped," she says. "The unspoken disappointment of the people closest to me was tearing me apart. That girl who went through that, it made me the woman I am today, but I would have ended up dying. And if I hadn't died of dying, I would have died of embarrassment. I would have lost my job or been written up in the New York Post."
Addiction experts say celebrities are not more prone to addictive behavior: Anyone can inherit that DNA.
"Addiction does not discriminate," says Kevin Hill, addictions psychiatrist in charge of drug abuse treatment at Harvard Medical School's McLean Hospital. "People use according to psychosocial stressers. Celebrities might have slightly different stressers, such as fame, but they use drugs like regular people -- they just use better drugs."
What actors, singers, athletes, even CEOs have that regular people might not have is more access to drugs, more time to indulge, more money to pay for the addiction, and often a horde of enabling hangers-on who are financially dependent on them and thus more motivated to supply substances for them.
It all adds up to a lifestyle that is hard to walk away from, McKagan says.
"Some can do (drugs) and move on and some do it and get stuck. In the last year before ending up in the hospital, I had given up. I said, 'I can't stop this,'" says McKagan, author of the memoir, It's So Easy (And Other Lies). "I had to be scared to death."
Winehouse's death in her London home last July probably was caused by accidental alcohol poisoning, according to the coroner's report. Her parents are setting up a foundation in her memory to help people overcome addiction.
Houston was found submerged in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub last month with bottles of prescription pills in her room. Her family said she was taking anti-anxiety drugs, and she was seen drinking the night before.
On CNN last month, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said celebrities such as Houston are "the royalty of America" who set a bad example by their drug use.
"Ridiculous," Hill says. "He implies that she chose to suffer such a fate, when in fact she made multiple efforts to treat it. To say that someone makes a conscious decision to have her life go down the drain is preposterous."
Yet one of Houston's close friends, R&B legend Chaka Khan, herself a recovering drug addict, said on CNN that her best memories of Houston involve getting high with her and Houston's ex-husband, Bobby Brown. "Talking crazy and having a really, really, really good laughing, and a really, really good time," she said.
With coverage of Houston's death and Michael Jackson's drug overdose death in 2009, it's easy to forget that there are more survival stories than tragedies among celebrity addicts.
Rocker and American Idol judge Steven Tyler, 64, who came close to dying from drug abuse, appeared with the other members of Aerosmith on 60 Minutes , talking about the ravages of addiction on bodies, band and relationships. But after 40 years, and lots of rehab, they're still rocking, about to tour and about to record another album.
Actress Kirstie Alley, 61, was "way into drugs" when she was Lohan's age, she recently told Access Hollywood. "If you don't die doing them, you just screw up your life sort of royally," she said.
Actor Robert Downey Jr., 46, may be Exhibit A for the celebrity comeback from addiction. Not so long ago, he was being sentenced to jail for drug-related offenses; now he's out, he's recovering and he's a bigger star than ever with lead roles in the Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes movies.
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