Battling Addicts Allegedly Given Drugs and Alcohol for Dr Phil’s Show
Former guests on the Dr. Phil Show have alleged that staffers provided them with alcohol and drugs during tapings while they battled substance addiction. The allegations emerged this week in an investigation from STAT and The Boston Globe, and have since been denied by several spokespeople for the show including psychologist Martin Greenberg, who called the allegations “unequivocally untrue.” The STAT/Globe article states that “guests confront a painful and potentially dangerous detox as they wait up to 48 hours in hotel rooms for their scheduled taping, leading some to look for illegal drugs.”
Survivor winner Todd Herzog alleges that when he arrived for a 2013 appearance on the show to discuss his struggles with addiction, he found a bottle of vodka waiting in his dressing room. Herzog stated at the time that he drank the entire bottle, and was then given a Xanax by an unidentified person to “calm his nerves.” During his appearance, Herzog appeared drunk and had to be helped to his chair by two people. A breathalyzer showed his alcohol level to be .263, and the show’s host Dr. Phil McGraw said that he had “never talked to a guest who was closer to death.” Yet Herzog’s mother and father both stated that Herzog was sober when he arrived at the studio to tape the show.
Greenberg, who serves as the show’s director of professional affairs, denied that guests have ever been given alcohol or assistance with buying drugs. He also specifically denied that Herzog was left alone with vodka or given Xanax. “We do not do that with this guest or any other,” he said.
The investigation also quotes family members of two other guests, who allege that their relatives were encouraged by show staffers to go to LA’s Skid Row to buy heroin in order to prevent withdrawal. One of the guests, who was pregnant, was allegedly filmed by a show staffer while trying to find a dealer.
The STAT/Globe investigation notes that the Dr. Phil show, through Greenberg and a lawyer, “offered a series of shifting explanations regarding the medical oversight of guests when they come out to LA.” Initially, Greenberg denied that the show had any responsibility to monitor guests, saying “Of course not, it’s a television show.” However, after STAT and the Globe sent more detailed questions about Herzog’s case and those of other guests, the show sent back a lengthy written response (signed by Greenberg) claiming that guests with substance abuse problems are medically supervised “100% of the time.” That same written response also stated that Herzog was supervised throughout his involvement with the show by multiple medical professionals.
Greenberg later responded to follow-up questions through a lawyer by clarifying that “we mean 100% of guests agreeing to treatment. It does not mean that a guest is being monitored 100% of the time.” Greenberg is also quoted as saying “substance abusers adopt very clever means” to obtain drugs and alcohol, and “we cannot control what we cannot control.”
Steve Thomason, the director of the Texas treatment center where Herzog agreed to go for help following his appearance on the show, said that no one from his facility monitored Herzog during the taping of the show. “I was watching them walk him out severely intoxicated,” Thomason said. “That was the first time I ever laid eyes on him.” Thomason added that after witnessing Herzog’s condition and treatment, he was so disturbed that he wanted no further involvement with the show. “I honestly regret having ever done it,” he said.
A Dr. Phil spokesperson denied the allegations in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, stating that the STAT and Globe’s joint investigation “does not fairly or accurately describe the methods of Dr. Phil, the TV show or its mission to educate millions of viewers about drug and alcohol addiction … Unfortunately, addicts often lash out at the very people who are trying the hardest to help them break the cycle of addiction. Although terribly unfortunate, this is an understandable part of the behavior of addicts on their journey to recovery,” the spokesperson added. “Deception, dishonesty and denial are hallmarks of addiction. It tears families apart and certainly creates levels of complexities when we produce these important shows. None of this will deter the Dr. Phil show from its commitment to continue to educate and inform the public about the worsening epidemic of addiction.”