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After his last stay in a court-ordered drug treatment program, Downey achieved sobriety. Downey was born in Manhattan, New York, the younger of two children.
He attended the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center in upstate New York as a teenager.
and went several times through drug treatment programs unsuccessfully, explaining in 1999 to a judge: "It's like I have a shotgun in my mouth, and I've got my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal." He explained his relapses by claiming to have been addicted to drugs since the age of eight, due to the fact that his father, also an addict, had been giving them to him.
In April 1996, Downey was arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine and an unloaded .357 Magnum handgun while he was speeding down Sunset Boulevard.
He was considered for the role of Duckie in John Hughes' film Pretty in Pink (1986), but his first lead role was with Molly Ringwald in The Pick-up Artist (1987).
Because of these and other coming-of-age films Downey did during the 1980s, he is sometimes named as a member of the Brat Pack.
Downey was under the influence of a controlled substance and in possession of cocaine and Valium.