May 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Readers squared off over our ”Hollywood High” cover story (#594, May 4). At issue: the treatment of celebrity addicts. ”Why should we even consider pitying people who are overpaid for their craft and cannot seem to refrain from shoving it up their noses?” said Dawn Sugasa of Madison, Wis. ”Unfortunately, [celebrities] often have to work through their problems while the world looks on,” countered Rebecca Bridel of Toronto. Much less divisive was Lisa Schwarzbaum’s essay about The Believer which had film lovers cheering. ”Her proclamation should have every distribution company feeling ashamed of itself,” said Brian Jude Piatkowski of Clifton, N.J. Hear that, Hollywood?

High and Low

I’m so tired of hearing about the sad stories of the Hollywood elite taking to drugs. Enough with the special treatment. Whether in Tinseltown or on the professional playing field, these overprivileged individuals need to take some responsibility. Everyone makes mistakes, but the degree to which Hollywood bends is ridiculous. MARC KLEIMAN Warwick, Pa.

While I do have compassion for stars like Robert Downey Jr. and Matthew Perry who can’t seem to stay ”on the wagon,” I resent their ”I have a disease, which makes me a victim — and therefore, if I relapse, it’s not my fault” attitudes. But the real tragedy is that every time they relapse, whether they realize it or not, they imply that programs like Alcoholics Anonymous don’t work — when in fact they do. If Downey and Perry put as much effort into their recoveries as they do into trying to salvage their careers, they might stand a chance at staying clean. TRACEY Q. BUSH Williamstown, W. Va.

As a producer and director for the past 15 years, I’ve sadly watched Dana Plato, Margaux Hemingway, and other stars from my past films succumb to substance abuse. The talent and enthusiasm they brought to their work is deeply missed. I can only hope the story for the actors in your ”Hollywood High” article will have a happier ending. DONALD FARMER Cookeville, Tenn.

Overall, I enjoyed ”Hollywood High.” Rarely does a story about celebrities that quotes ”anonymous” sources prove to be so balanced. Sadly, the statement attributed to me, though accurate, was dangerously incomplete. While in some limited cases incarceration may prove an effective deterrent, as a counselor I went on to stress that it is a terrible mistake to believe that there is any short-term answer to addiction. Only a wholesale change in lifestyle, attitude, and outlook will get the job done. Nonetheless, I thank EW for putting a spotlight on this stubborn problem. HARRY SHANNON, M.A. Studio City, Calif.

Standing alone, our quote ”…legends in their own mind” delivers the wrong message. In fact, the great majority of musicians we see at the Musicians’ Assistance Program come to us because living as an addict has drained off their entire being. They come to us asking only for a chance to get their lives back. MAP makes it possible for the person to get treatment regardless of financial condition. We provide treatment and ongoing support from MAP’s peer network. An average 82% of our budget goes to program/treatment costs. Our secondary purpose is to break the connection between drugs and music so that the musicians of tomorrow can follow a path to their dreams instead of one to self-destruction. BUDDY ARNOLD & CAROLE FIELDS Los Angeles

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