Chronic Ethical Relapse: Dr. Drew Pinksy

Is Dr. Drew More Like Charlie Sheen Than He Thinks?

by Maia Szalavitz

Could Dr. Drew Pinsky be following Charlie Sheen off the rails? Recently the “Celebrity Rehab” host claimed that Sheen was “in an acute manic state” — a public statement which teeters on the bounds of psychiatric ethics (more on that after the jump). Moreover, Pinsky — contradicting his own previous statements about 12-step programs being critical to recovery — told TMZ that Sheen, who denounces 12-step, “has got a point” and that “their success rates aren’t that great … but it DOES work when people do it.”

Dr. Drew’s assessment of Sheen may well violate a principle of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) ethical standards known as the Barry Goldwater rule, which was adopted after psychiatrists diagnosed the presidential candidate in a magazine article as “paranoid” and “narcissistic” and questioned his mental fitness for office — without ever examining him in person.

60 Responses to 'Chronic Ethical Relapse: Dr. Drew Pinksy'

  1. Gunthar2000 says:

    Dr. Drew needs a good public spanking if you ask me. It’s about time someone called him on his bullshit. Drew is a huge egomaniac himself.

  2. The only thing I don’t get about the Time post is the title: Sheen’s not getting all this attention for violating professional ethical standards in order to cash in on other people’s personal problems.

  3. causeandeffect says:

    His license needs to be revoked. He’s totally unethical.

  4. Gunthar2000 says:

    he needs to be called out by one of his won… Perhaps Oprah or Wayne Dyer.

  5. JR Harris says:

    He’s followed by a lot of people. I hope they don’t follow along with his comment on planting drugs on people to have the courts force them into treatment.

  6. Gunthar2000 says:

    @JR Harris… What’s the time-line between Drew’s drug plant statement and the father who planted drugs on his kid?

  7. tintop says:

    Pinsky does need to lose his licence.

  8. JR Harris says:

    Dr. Drew ‘s statement about planting drugs and getting them arrested to help them was was made in April of 2010 a few years after the father in the “Cash for Kids” scandal did it. But I have to wonder, Dr. Drew does a lot of Interventions and talks to a lot of 12 Steppers, is this where he got the idea?

    I’m not giving advice here, but……. If Dr. Drew ever tried to interview me, I’d get a court order against him it to keep him away from my car, house, everything. If he ever made that same comment about me, I think I would also see if I could get him jailed for making a “Terrorist Threat”.

  9. Gunthar2000 says:

    Dr. Drew needs to be locked up… He’s clearly a danger to others.

  10. Lucy says:

    Great article about the professional perils of shooting ones mouth off for fame! I believe that the Goldwater rule is the way Phil McGraw was stripped of his license to practice in Texas.

    The Goldwater rule came up when, without ever having met the president, Justin Frank published his psychoanalysis of George Bush:

    I remember buying it because I thought it might be insightful. Half the quotations were from Al Franken (a longtime member of Al-Anon who dedicates his books “To Lois W.”) and the gist was that Bush should go to AA. (Bush may well be disturbed but AA isn’t going to fix that.)

  11. speedy0314 says:

    Maia Szalavitz is one of the saner voices when it comes to reporting on abuse, addiction & the merry-go-round more commonly referred to as ‘Recovery’.

    Drew Pinsky is an ambulance-chasing, self-absorbed ghoul/media whore who pimps 12-Step because it cycles celebrities through his garish television tent shows & desperate people through the clinics he’s affiliated with. good on Maia for taking his a** to the woodshed on this one.

    reading Maia, Fingarette, & White’s “Slaying The Dragon” 2 years after choking on daily doses of all Bill all the time was what put my ‘smart feet’ pointed in the direction that would eventually take my out of AA for good.

    this is a watershed moment, kids — much bigger than the “Saturday Evening Post” ruckus of the 1960’s or the Mid-Town mess of just a few years back. in the recent past, most big-name researchers (e.g., Willenbring, Volkow) have soft-peddled their stance on 12-Step’s ‘effectiveness’ — preferring to talk more about ‘group support’. in the case of Bankole Johnson, you’ve got an outright summary denunciation of 12X12 in one of the country’s biggest dailies. i suspect you’re going to hear a lot more from people who’ve got a more ‘nuanced’ view of abuse, addiction & ‘Recovery’.

    AA’s long-time media free-ride is coming to a very abrupt halt & it’s none too soon.


  12. AndyM says:

    Roll ‘em Bowl ‘em penny a pitch!
    If he can’t stand the heat
    he shouldn’t have started on the coconut shy.
    That’s a man’s game.
    Drew’s a wimp.
    He’ll be sobbing into his milkshake before you can say “quack!”

    Just look at the reactionhe’s getting from steppers.

  13. Steven Slate says:

    Gunthar – “Dr. Drew needs to be locked up… He’s clearly a danger to others.”


    This needs to be a campaign of the same intensity with which they’re chanting that Charlie is crazy, we need to a chorus of people saying that Dr Drew is dangerous and needs to be locked up.

  14. Beyond Rehab says:

    I was “raised’ on his kind since I was put in rehab so young (14, 1984). Time to nail him/them, I agree (and I’m on it, wrote a piece today, posting tomorrow)

  15. AndyM says:

    I think Drew managed to antagonise EVERYONE with that interview, from the mentally ill and those who care for them and their advocates to true-believing steppers. It was a brilliant own goal.

  16. Gunthar2000 says:

    Go for it!

  17. Gunthar2000 says:

    5% is the retention rate after one year for AA… That doesn’t mean those people have remained sober for a year… It means they are still going to meetings after a year.

    It seems to me that Dr. Drew may be suffering from delusions of grandeur, or perhaps narcissist­ic personalit­y disorder and should probably be locked away in order to protect the public from possible harm.

    These people will continue, at the risk of millions of lives, to insist that AA is the only reliable method to stay sober. The truth is that, for every brainwashe­d slogan spouting stepper to be found in a dirty church basement somewhere, there are 10 more formerly alcohol troubled people out there just living their lives who were able to quit without AA.

    It’s time for people to stand up and speak out against the travesty that 12-step programs have made of the American addiction treatment industry. America has allowed a religious cult to take hold of an entire branch of medicine and people are dying because of it.

    The truth is 5%… If a pharmaceutical company presented a treatment for any other disorder to the FDA, and the truth was revealed that the treatment only worked 5% of the time, the treatment would be yanked from the shelves and everyone would know about it.

    It’s time to move on from AA’s dismal failure and focus our attention on treatments that actually work.

  18. AndyM says:

    Just came across this interview with another media shrink. I think at least it shows a bit mre insight and he doesn’t jump straight into remote diagnosis and labelling:

  19. Primrose says:

    GK2, if AA were a pharmaceutical treatment, the reason it would not pass the trials would be the side effects. Suicide, powerlessness, believing oneself to have a fictitious disease, isolation, etc, etc. Aspirin would not get a license today because of the side effects.

  20. DeConstructor says:

    It would be cool if they made them list the side effects on the commercials, like with the really fast talkers for medications.

    About one third into the commercial for lets say- dr phils place- La Hacienda in Texas.

    ‘Side effects may include compulsive lying, binge drinking, passive aggressive love bombing, chain smoking, promiscuity, bad and mis-spelled tattoos, constant talking to door knobs, trees, rocks, cats, and groups of drunks, while looking over their shoulder at the parking lot.
    Persons taking the AA drug may feel suicidal, depressed, hungry, alone, lonely and tired. They may also feel the need to swindle others in their group, and attempt to bed young newcomers, while being rigorously honest with their spouse. Other side effects include the feeling that the letters MD should come after their name, and expertise in all fields spiritual.
    In a nutshell, this regimen causes SERENITY.

  21. Primrose says:

    Decon :)
    lack of self-worth due to humiliation and brainwashing, exposure to sexual predators and no recourse when 13 stepped, exposure to unstable people who have themselves joined a cult; the treatment for this disease is supervised by entirely unqualified people and aa cannot accept any liability if they turn out to be creepy, overpowering, micro-managing, a rapist, a paedophile or a murderer. Neglect of family and personal growth.
    Raging self-doubt at your inability to reconcile the contradictory aspects and being told one doesn’t ‘get’ it. The patient may also experience periods of intense boredom.

    It works if you work it.

  22. Gunthar2000 says:

    4 out of five dentists recommend AA.

  23. hulahoop says:

    @ Decon and prim – I LOVED the side effects lists. Yes, I agree. There should be some truth in advertising. constant talking to door knobs, trees, rocks, cats, and groups of drunks, while looking over their shoulder at the parking lot. AND The patient may also experience periods of intense boredom.

    about Dr. Drew – from the article – Moreover, Pinsky — contradicting his own previous statements about 12-step programs being critical to recovery — told TMZ that Sheen, who denounces 12-step, “has got a point” and that “their success rates aren’t that great … but it DOES work when people do it.”

    That bolded statement sounds just like, “It works if you work it.” OR “The people it didn’t work for were not working a good enough program.” It sounds like a lot of the sugarcoated, thinly disguised step speak I’ve heard so much of lately by industry “professionals”. I keep my trAAnslAAtion guide and my AA decoder ring handy when the television is on.

  24. hulahoop says:

    @ Gunthar – 4 out of five dentists recommend AA.

    That is because four out five dentists haven’t been to AA.

  25. Gunthar2000 says:

    And 4 out of 5 AA members haven’t been to a dentist.

  26. Steven Slate says:

    “It would be cool if they made them list the side effects on the commercials, like with the really fast talkers for medications.”

    Deconstructor – I’m trying to put together ideas for a sketch show about addiction – can I have your blessing to use this?

  27. JR Harris says:

    Dr. Drew is making a lot of money off of the problems of addiction in America, without even being hired by the people he is talking about. I wonder if he has ever seen the Micheal Moore movie “Sicko” or “Capitalism: A Love Story”. He is just using corporate greed to line his pockets off of someone’s misery.

  28. Rick045 says:

    @AndyM, that cnn video is interesting. When the doc describes the anger that young celebrities feel about having been exploited by the business, he’s also describing the anger that many feel when they see AA for what it is. Charlie just happens to have experienced both situations. For me anyway, this isn’t about Charlie, but it’s about what he represents. In a way, he represents everyone who’s ever been vilified for questioning or criticizing AA. He represents everyone who sought help for their problems, only to figure out at some point that they’ve been had. This doctor in this video didn’t frame this in recovery terms; he didn’t focus on Charlie-as-angry-addict-in-denial, but instead on Charlie-as-angry-human-being for possibly valid psychological reasons. I thought his approach seemed similar to Stanton Peele’s in that regard, and I personally wish these types would get more exposure.

  29. Steven I picked up those Jeffrey Schwartz books you recommended, and just started reading Brain Lock. Have you read that? There’s a good AA side effect in there. Did you read the case study of that guy with OCD who was self-medicating with alcohol, went to AA to sober up, and developed a whole new obsession based on AA’s alcohol/abstinence/sobriety-date fetish. He was so terrified of coming into contact with alcohol that he couldn’t eat anything (Schwartz says even something like rice-a-roni), he was afraid to touch anything because someone who drank alcohol might have touched it before him and he would absorb it.

    One of the ways he re-wired his thinking was to lose that AA delusions: so what if he absorbs a trace of alcohol? What’s the worst thing that will happen?

    Some AAs would say that even the most minute trace of alcohol would set off a full-on binge.

  30. causeandeffect says:

    DeCon and Steven, I’ve thought the same exact thing about people’s shares. They are really scary.

    I was a hopeless drunk when I came to AA 20 years ago!
    (I couldn’t wear sandals because I had embarrassing yellow tonails from a nail fungas! But a month ago I started taking Lamisil!)

    Yesterday somebody somebody cut me off in traffic so I drove recklessly, endagering lives, as I tried to chase them down to beat their ass. Luckily they got away!
    (Warning: side effects include Diarrhea; headache; indigestion; nausea, Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue; unusual hoarseness); red, blistered, peeling, or swollen skin; symptoms of infection (eg, fever, chills, sore throat); symptoms of liver problems (eg, dark urine, decreased appetite, pale stools, persistent nausea, stomach pain, unusual tiredness or weakness, vomiting, yellowing of the skin or eyes); unexpected weight loss; vision changes.)

    AA really works!
    (Weeeee! I can wear sandals again!)

  31. Primrose says:

    Part of what I do is look at the trials aspect of getting the drug or treatment approved. AA would not be approved because of side effects. Aspirin would not be licensed now due to side effects. I said this ages ago. If AA were a pill the side effects would mean it would NEVER get a license.

  32. Sugomom says:

    Prim, let’s not forget that severe and impairing addiction to AA will most likely occur.

  33. causeandeffect says:

    @Rick045, I’m sure he does feel extremely betrayed after finding out the truth about AA after investing 22 years, and so many trips to rehab. I can understand his rage. I also believe there is a violent fight going on within his mind to repair his damaged, deflated ego and he’s currently over-compensating. The average person will never be able to see that. But when he also made anti-semitic comments, he clouded the issue of whether or not he’s being persecuted for speaking out against AA or anti-semitism. I’m also concerned that if he doesn’t completely deprogram from AA brainwashing, the inner stepper will get him.

  34. DeConstructor says:

    @Steven Slate-

    Absolutely make the sketch. I think there are many people here who would love to see it.

  35. Katieshrike says:

    I agree that Dr. Drew has upped his shadiness factor exponentially over the last several years, but I can’t completely denouce him. I’m sure there must be some people here in my age bracket that stayed up late to listen to Loveline on the radio in the mid-late 90’s (the Afam Carolla years), and as a troubled young teenager with troubled young friends, it meant something to me that we were able to have access to that show. 13-16 year olds feel scared and powerless a significant portion of their time, and here was someone that would give us answers about birth control, STDs, eating disorders, whatever that wasn’t our parents and wasn’t judging us. It’s hard to look an adult in the face and ask about sex when you’re a kid, and with the state of sex education in the US I do felt that he provided a valuable resource that got accurate information out to a wide audience of teenagers that desperatly needed it.

  36. Primrose says:

    Sugomom. As you almost certainly know, valium is very addictive. For that reason, doctors will only ever prescribe a time limited dose. Too many people got addicted and they now take extreme care with it. As you say, and as you know, AA is addictive. Therefore it should only be prescribed in a time limited dose.

    I hope Darfield is reading this because he knows the lingo. Oi! Darfield! Translate the known side-effects of cult membership into medical language.

  37. Sugomom says:

    @ C&A, if you are referring to the Chiem (sp?) remark, then it might not have been totally antisemetic. That was my original first take also. But in one of his rants he made a statement that he was referring to Lorre’s given name and pointed out that his own name was Carlos Estevez and asked if that was anti Latino? I took that to be part of his anger over the lack of authenticity of being your real self and the pressure to conform even to the extent of changing your name. Too bad he forgot he said that, and the press buried it.

    @Katie hope all is well with you before you join your ship. You bring up a good point. I think that ratings have ruined many well intentioned people. If you look back in the history of Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, heck, let’s not leave out John and Kate Plus 8, they all had good intentions towards their original mission, but got derailed by fame, fortune and ratings. Take care! The USS Monterey deploys on Monday to protect the Europe from any flying threats, hope you are well.

  38. Acacia H says:

    Richard Bacon, will be appearing on THIS WEEK, with Andrew Neill on BBC1 in a few minutes. They will be talking about rehab and Charlie Sheen.

  39. Primrose says:

    He didn’t make anti-semetic remarks. The English designer who was sacked from Dior made anti-semetic remarks. I am sure CS has his vices but I don’t think he has made anti-semetic remarks. But I have not read or watched everything about him so I will take that back if he has.

  40. Primrose says:

    Watching and recording Acacia!

  41. Primrose says:

    Diane Abbot says America is the land of redemption.

  42. causeandeffect says:

    Yes, sugomom, it wasn’t just what he said but the venom with which he said it. One must be very careful in making such remarks so they can’t be misconstrued. It’s an extremely sensitive subject. In fact, I saw a doc just yesterday on Hitler and they showed the pictures of Jews that were starving to death or dead. Piles of bodies. Just can’t get that picture out of my head.

  43. Acacia H says:

    In the end, they did’nt even mention Charlie Sheen!!!! False advertising or what…….

  44. Francina says:

    “Following Charlie Sheen off the rails…”? What are you talking about. He’s not diagnosing, he’s commenting and educating.

  45. Look what the cat dragged in!

    Hiya, Counselor… Were you attracted by that cute scavenger in the picture?

  46. Gunthar2000 says:

    Oh no! It’s not that weird lawyer who pretends to be other people is it?

  47. Shhh… Don’t scare it away.

  48. Gunthar2000 says:

    You mean the guy who represented that freak raper who ran a sober house/personal dating service? Is it that one?

  49. Gunthar2000 says:

    I’m sorry… I’m getting all mixed up.

    was it the AA raper who coerced the women living in his sober house to have sex with him, or was it the AA raper who raped a five year old child, or maybe the AA raper who wanted a lesser prison sentence because he claimed that AA meetings were making him less of a raper?

    There are so many of them that I can’t even keep up any more… I give up.
    Maybe it’s just safer to treat them all as rapists and stay the hell away from AA altogether.

  50. AndyM says:

    When the doc describes the anger that young celebrities feel about having been exploited by the business, he’s also describing the anger that many feel when they see AA for what it is. Charlie just happens to have experienced both situations.
    That’s what I thought. Poor old Chalie’s had a double whammy, hasn’t he. No wonder he’s a bit miffed!

  51. AndyM says:


    There are so many of them that I can’t even keep up any more… I give up.
    Maybe it’s just safer to treat them all as rapists and stay the hell away from AA altogether.

    I think that’s the best policy.

  52. Martha says:

    I wonder if Pinsky is going to come out and scold Natalie Portman about this?

    On the blog radio last night Stanton Peele referred to Pinsky as America’s “national scold.”
    I wonder if in order to deal with promiscuous teens Pinsky will suggest that parents plant a baby on their daughter to force her into Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous?

  53. AndyM says:

    Good one!

  54. Steven Slate says:


    I’ve been reading the mind & the brain. I hadn’t read brain lock, but now I definitely will.

    “Some AAs would say that even the most minute trace of alcohol would set off a full-on binge.”
    This is an especially popular view in rehabs that don’t allow any mouthwash or aftershave. It’s only a logical extension of the good ol’ allergy version of the disease.

  55. lalala says:

    He’s a self absorbed wimp- who calls everything a disease so he can get paid to treat it. Scam man

  56. Why is it that every TALKING HEAD turn’s out to be an ASSHOLE? Are they actors or Doctors?

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