Is Dr. Drew Pinsky is responsible for the celebrity death of Mindy McCready, a 37-year-old country singer who appeared on his “Celebrity Rehab” television show?* No, not fully, but certainly he is partiaily responsible. Like Dr. Phil who has clients on TV for entertainment value, so does Dr. Drew. Dr. Pinsky says he hasn’t seen Ms. McCready in years so he’s not responsible. I get it. Am I responsible for a client of mine who leaves counseling and later starts using again? I’m not legally responsible, but in my heart it feels different. That heart-ache is part caring, part over-responsibility and part helplessness about the nature of addiction, treatment and recovery. I imagine Dr. Drew has similar feelings.
What’s the real problem Dr. Drew is faced with? A national television show means it’s in the spotlight.The spotlight shines very brightly on the good and the bad and the ugly.That’s what makes these types of reality shows popular. People love the drama and the trauma. But while dating shows can cause hurt and pain, addiction is a volatile, dangerous subject, a risky subject to address on national television. People die from the disease of addiction every day. (approximately 40,000 from alcohol in 2010 alone). That’s not Dr. Drew’s fault, it’s the collective responsibility of the medical and therapeutic community that our treatment approaches haven’t changed much over the last 30 years.
So what’s a celebrity Reality Show Star like Dr. Drew to do? Keep talking about addiction. Keep talking about the reality of what it takes for people to get and stay sober. Continue talking about the fact alcoholism and addiction are diseases that need to be treated, not judged as a morality issue. Keep talking about the abysmal recovery rates and the lack of prevention, early education and lack of money for treatment options for poor and middle-class folks with no insurance. Talk about the effective medications now available like Vivitrol, a once a month injection that cuts the high of alcohol (like antabuse) and reduces cravings. Use the platform and use it to help educate and move us toward better treatment. Using the limelight to educate as well as entertain is Dr. Drew’s responsibility.
*NY Times article “Where Rehab TV Meets Reality” June 9, 2013