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Drew Barrymore says she was 'out of control' and was sent to a mental institution at age 13

By Camille Santiago Published Feb 23, 2021 6:08 am

Drew Barrymore is a woman most women aspire to be: a loving mother, an award-winning actress, a talk-show host, and a successful businesswoman. But before she became all that, she went through a difficult phase in her life—one that you’d never imagine for a child.

At the age of nine, Barrymore started going to nightclubs with her divorced mother, Jaid Barrymore. She also learned how to drink alcohol, take drugs, steal her mom’s car, and hang out with older people. And by the age of 13, her mother had no choice but to put her into a mental institution due to her addiction.

“I was out of control,” Barrymore told Howard Stern in a radio interview.

The owner of Flower Beauty looked back at the time she was sent to Van Nuys Psychiatric for a year and a half during her early teenage years. “You couldn’t mess around in there. If you did, you’d get thrown either in the padded room or get put in stretcher restraints and tied up,” she said.

On some days, Barrymore would rebel at the psychiatric ward and “channel my inner riot girl” a la punk rocker Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics, and on some, she’d go berserk. “Sometimes it was as humorous as that and sometimes I was just so angry that I would go off and then I'd get thrown in the thing," she recalled those times she was sent to the padded room, sometimes cuffed. 

When asked why she thinks her mother had her institutionalized, the 46-year-old said, “I think she created a monster and she didn’t know what to do with the monster.” She added, “This was her last gasp, and I really was out of control, and I forgive her for making this choice. She probably felt she had nowhere to turn.”

While she did think her mother’s discipline action was extreme, she believed that she needed it and that it had helped her a lot. "I asked myself like why is this happening. And I thought, maybe you need the craziest form of structure because everything was so accessible available and screwed up in your world that maybe it's going to take something like this for you to kickstart the rest of your life," she explained. "And that didn't come for probably about six to eight months. The first six to eight months I was just so angry. I couldn't see straight." 

“It was the best thing to happen to me, in a sick way, because it cooled me out,” she said.

Photos from Drew Barrymore's Instagram (@drewbarrymore)