A little over a week ago, revelations that Dr. Phil exploited people with addiction disorders made its way all over the news, shocking addiction recovery advocates and dismaying many of the treatment centers and interventionists he frequently works with when staging interventions.
Several guests appearing on Phil McGraw’s talk show told of temptation in their green rooms, and drug offerings such as pills that “calm nerves,” casting doubt on his good intentions.
Guests that have appeared on his show are often left without a support system in place as they wait for their turn on the recorded show. For some, this means they are required to “detox” alone in a hotel room, without medical intervention, for up to 48 hours. By the time they arrive at the studio, many of them are physically and emotionally exhausted.
Experts say that this is because the show has partnerships with treatment centers in other states, who are not licensed to provide assistance in the state where Dr. Phil’s show is taped for television.
People coming to get help on the show don’t expect to find alcohol in their “green room” when they arrive, but, of course, it happens. In fact, one guest with an opioid use disorder described bringing his heroin, with the consent of Dr. Phil’s staff, according to a family member who spoke with reporters.
Another guest, who became a “frequent flyer” through Dr. Phil’s show, described how he compulsively downed a bottle of liquor once he landed comfortably in the green room. (The room came equipped with more than just a mini-bar, there were bottles of several favorite liquors for those who liked to drink.) Unfortunately, for this particular guest, alcohol was his drug of choice. He got wasted and later told friends and family he didn’t remember anything about the show itself.
The Real Issue is Addiction Treatment Access
For many people, desperation is what drove them to Dr. Phil’s shows in the first place. They were promised free drug treatment (if they agreed to go) at some of the most reputable (and expensive) treatment centers in the US.
One man with an alcohol use disorder went on the show three times– knowing that he would suffer from humiliation but also knowing that he just couldn’t afford treatment at all.
Addiction treatment centers are woefully underfunded, and there are few beds for people who don’t have the money or insurance to help pay. Funding is such an essential issue for addiction treatment advocates to continue to pursue in 2018 and beyond.
Dr. Phil’s show is just a symptom of what goes on when the government fails to address a public health crisis like the current opioid addiction crisis. Address the problem at the roots, and branches like the exploitation on television shows will fail to grow.
Treatment — especially quality, evidence-based addiction medicine is not accessible for many people, especially those who are vulnerable and come from the middle to lower-class households. Television has always proven itself to be a platform willing to exploit