Dr. Drew Controversy Over Lindsay Lohan Comments (With His Tweets to "Radical" Russ)

06/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Russ Belville Host of The Russ Belville Show on

Dr. Drew Pinsky, the Celebrity Rehab / Loveline guy, is getting a lot of flack for his recent comments about Lindsay Lohan. (If you're reading this, doctor, you are welcome any time on our show to defend yourself live.) You can imagine with my hectic 4/20-week travel schedule (2,000 miles in 6 days with LA this weekend) when I'm scanning headlines on the BlackBerry, my brain's spam filters drop anything with "Lindsay Lohan" in the summary.

"Would you guys legalize hemp already? They're cutting down my cousins to make juice boxes, for Ent's sake!"But as I'm riding shotgun with my wife driving us through the incredible Redwood National Park, I find the time to catch up on Twitter. Scanning through the people I follow I find this plea:

@DannyDanko: RT @SSDP Tell @drdrew that Planting Drugs to Frame People is NOT Acceptable! Sign the petition on facebook:

What's this? Planting drugs to frame people? What has Dr. Drew done now? Alas, the coverage on wireless was too spotty for me to do real web surfing, but coming from Danny and SSDP, I figured I would re-tweet it.

I put my phone down to enjoy the scenery. Soon it buzzed on my leg, which it does only when I'm getting a text message. But when I pick it up, I find it's not a text, but a direct message (DM for the g33ks) on Twitter... from Dr. Drew!

Dr. Drew: Please read before you pass judgment:
7:20 PM Apr 17th

Now remember, at this point I hadn't read the actual quote that has gotten him into trouble. I've since found that it was an interview piece in RadarOnline (emphasis mine):

The board certified addiction specialist tells, "If she were my daughter, I would pack her car full with illegal substances, send her on her way, call the police, and make sure she was arrested. I would make sure she was not allowed to get out of jail. I would then go to the judge and make sure she was ordered to a minimum of a three year sobriety program."

Dr. Drew says it's highly unlikely that Lindsay will recognize she has a problem and go to rehab of her own accord, "I would say it's less than a 1% chance of her making the decision to go to rehab. I have said this many times before, I believe that Lindsay will make a wonderful sober person, someday, if she survives this. I absolutely wish no harm to her, but I just have a feeling that something awful is going to happen to her, like she is going to lose a limb. I hope Lindsay gets help before something terrible happens."

I always knew that kid on the left would end up being a bad influence on that kid on the right.I have a feeling something awful is going to happen to Lindsay, too, like somebody might pack her car full of illegal drugs in an effort to frame her for enough felonies to force her into rehab. (Lose a limb? Really? Like all the now-one-armed coke-addled starlets of the past?) First off, I like knowing that at any time, Dr. Drew can get his hands on felony amounts of illegal drugs. Even better that he has the power to "go to the judge and make sure" he gives her the appropriate sentence of three years of rehab.

One of those times and places when slow download speeds are welcomeBut I hadn't read this yet; I was just getting a direct message from Dr. Drew. I figured he was just watching his "mentions" on Twitter and auto-sending this to anyone who was propagating the Facebook petition. I clicked the link anyway and waited the very long time Huffington Post took to download as we cruised down US 101.

If I Were Lindsay Lohan's Father I Would Go to Any Lengths to Get Her Into Treatment

Addiction is a deadly disease. It is a brain disease that alters the brain's fundamental motivational drives such that thoughts, judgment and volition become severely distorted and actually serve the abnormal motivational priority of getting and using more drugs. Untreated severe addiction is more likely to kill a patient suffering with the condition than most cancers. Treated Breast Cancers, Prostate Cancer, most Lymphomas, and the vast majority of skin cancers, have a better prognosis than a treated addict. And yet addiction is the only disease I have to convince a patient that they have and more importantly convince the patient that without treatment his or her life is in danger.

Do not let this man anywhere near the trunk of your car!...I spend my days trying to resurrect lives that have been devastated by this disease, devastation that might have been avoided had someone been sufficiently clear to have gone to the mat for this patient when they were younger and earlier in their disease. Family members have to be willing to go to any lengths and unfortunately this often means bringing about circumstances that restrict that individual's freedom.

...[W]hen I was asked as a father, if I were in Michael Lohan's position, what would I do to help my daughter, I am clear that I would go to any lengths to get her to and retain her in treatment. Bringing legal consequences to bear is often the only alternative. It would kill me but I would do it. Perhaps I surrendered my equanimity to a flight of journalistic excess by even suggesting that he plant drugs. But if I was in his position and I knew she was addicted (which I personally do not) and all else had failed, I suspect I would contemplate even this as a last resort.

Let me be clear I am not suggesting this as a routine intervention but we frequently enlist law enforcement when we have exhausted other measures. To those of you who reacted in outrage when I made this suggestion, I will remind you that millions of you watched the first season of Sober House when as difficult as it was for her, the house manager, Jennifer Gimenez, summoned police to contain Steven Adler. We then advocated for long-term treatment as an alternative to imprisonment; an enlightened judge granted this, and today as a result Steven is sober and thriving. Were it not for this intervention, as miserable as it was for Steven, I believe he would have soon succumbed to his addiction.

"Lindsay, dear, I think you still have a little bit of powder on your boob..."The first of many thoughts to come to mind when reading this is if the prognosis for treated addicts is so poor, what's the motivation to frame them to force them to choose prison or rehab? The second was that if you have to convince someone they have a problem with drugs, what you're really saying is you think they have a problem with drugs and they don't. The third was that people die from preventable and treatable diseases all the time; we can't convince them all to get help. What's next, chasing around fat people with pitchforks to force them to jog for their own good? Many more people die from gluttony and sloth than die from addiction and overdose.

Of course, that's way more than 140 characters for Twitter. I tried DMing back to Dr. Drew, but he doesn't follow me so I can't. So my only option was to blast my tweet out to the entire Twitterverse as an "@reply" to @DrDrew:

RadicalRuss: OK @drdrew I read it. Judgment: using jail threat to bring you more clients is still wrong. Even if disease, it's no crime. I'm ACoA, BTW.
7:35 PM Apr 17th via UberTwitter

Much to my surprise, I get a response, again by DM, from Dr. Drew. Maybe that first one wasn't an automated reply. He really is reading my tweets!

Dr. Drew: That's cool and I have no issue with NORML's position but as you see using the law helps me for those in dire straights
7:38 PM Apr 17th

Dr. Drew: Or straits that is
7:44 PM Apr 17th

Jeff & Marci Beagley were for convicted of criminally negligent homicide for not getting medical treatment for their 16-year-old son's urinary tract blockage. (Click for source)So, we're framing people for their own good? We're forcing people to get treatment for their diseases? Diseased or not, the addict is still a person who is an adult citizen free to make hiser own choices. For example, suppose Lindsay Lohan decides to leave Hollywood for Oregon City and becomes a Follower of Christ, a fundamentalist Christian sect that believes only in faith healing, no medicines and no doctors. (There was a high-profile conviction of such a couple in Oregon City for allowing their child to die from an easily treatable condition. My wife comes from that religion and knew those people personally.) Suppose she contracts pneumonia and would certainly survive with the most routine medical care, but she steadfastly refuses to go and instead kneels and prays. Does Dr. Drew then go to any extreme means necessary to force antibiotics into her system against her wishes? If not, then why does he allow her to choose a religion that will likely kill her, but not a lifestyle that will likely kill her?

But again, too much for Twitter, so I sent this:

RadicalRuss: Also @drdrew you can't guarantee "enlightened judge" 4 the non-Steven Adlers. Most you'd plant drugs on would get prison (aka "lousy rehab")
7:48 PM Apr 17th via UberTwitter

Surprisingly, Dr. Drew kept responding:

Dr. Drew: You'd be surprised we get mandated treatment all the time.BTW be clear I am not interested in bumming anyone's high.
7:50 PM Apr 17th

"The way pot is horticulturally cultivated these days, it clearly has a very powerful opioid effect and very hard to treat." (Click for source)Where'd that come from? "Bumming anyone's high"? It's nice to know Dr. Drew is compassionate about harshing my mellow. And no, I'm not surprised at all that you get mandated treatment all the time, when the latest Treatment Episode Data Set shows 37.5% of all admissions to rehab for drugs are criminal justice referrals (and 56.9% of all marijuana users in rehab were forced there by a court.)

In response to Dr. Drew's "using the law helps me" tweet, I sent:

@drdrew Sure it helps, and so would a gun to their head. "Go to rehab, now!" Framing people for their own good is still wrong.
8:25 PM Apr 17th via UberTwitter

I must have touched a nerve, because then Dr. Drew had to pull the "What About the Children!?!" card, the last refuge of the prohibitionist:

Dr. Drew: Are you a father?
8:26 PM Apr 17th

quot;You heard me, Lindsay. Get yourself into Celebrity Rehab now!"Ah, yes, I couldn't possibly understand because I haven't reproduced. I can appreciate how a father's love for his daughter might compel him to do some pretty radical shit, like maybe killing her rapist, or maybe kidnapping and roughing up her pimp, or even maybe planting drugs in her car and narcing her off to the po-po. How he feels about the harms done to her by herself or others does not legitimize the commission of other crimes in response.

RadicalRuss: @drdrew No I am not a father but my dad was an addict. Him in prison would've ruined my life. He CHOSE rehab!
8:44 PM Apr 17th via UberTwitter

Actual story from my hometown paper, The Idaho Statesman, about my dad graduating from college (click for full size)I'm not ignorant of the whole Twelve Step drug rehab addiction disease modes of thought. I'm an Adult Child of Alcoholic/Addict (ACoA, they call us) and read many textbooks and attended many groups as my father went through medical detox, 30-day inpatient rehab, and then returned to college at age 40, became president of the Student Social Workers, and got his degree and became a drug and alcohol counselor himself.

Dr. Drew: what if his disease was such that he could not choose and he died and someone could have gotten him in but didn't
8:51 PM Apr 17th

Exchange the word "gotten" with "forced" and it's closer to what you mean. I know that an addict becomes crazy as drugs take over their life. But if someone has become so insane that they are likely to be self-injurious, we have laws that cover declaring them mentally unstable and mandating forced in-patient treatment in a secure facility (I used to work in one such psychiatric hospital processing that very type of paperwork.) That doesn't entail framing them for felonies that will remain on their record and affect their entire life, sober or high.

RadicalRuss: @drdrew It was. He was speed/booze addict on bridge about to suicide when I was 12. Sad if he'd died, but prison wouldn't have helped.
9:05 PM Apr 17th via UberTwitter

And that was the end of our Twitter conversation, as Dr. Drew hasn't replied since. To this day, I would have preferred my dad to jump off that bridge rather than be forced into rehab. He'd actually been forced, a couple of times, in response to DUIs he'd racked up and cars he had rolled, and those coerced treatment sessions did nothing.

The old joke goes: "How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to want to change." I actually believe in drug treatment - it saved my dad's life - but I believe even more that taking drugs or being a drug addict is not a crime. People have a right to make their own decisions, even bad ones.