Dr. Drew, Mindy McCready, and me

I've been warning about Dr. Drew for years

Posted Mar 15, 2013

Is this good therapy?

Mindy McCready, a "successful" graduate of Dr. Drew's Celebrity Rehab, killed herself at age 37 after the father of her child committed suicide and she lost custody of her kids.  Dr. Drew blames her behavior on the "stigmatization" she feared if she sought more help.  What kind of "stigmatization," Dr. Drew?  That she failed at treatment after you said she was okay and she publicly bragged about how great your treatment was? 

McCready was the fifth person Dr. Drew has treated on television who has died, leading to quite a bit of criticism of Dr. Drew's therapeutic efficacy.  Maia Szalavitz made the case against the good doctor in a piece entitled, "Is Dr. Drew Too Risky for Prime Time?"  Szalavitz (the best informed and most informative journalist writing about addiction -- along with Reason's Jacob Sullum) identified Dr. Drew's deficiencies in utilizing evidence-based treatment techniques.

McCready's suicide crystallized questions many had about Dr. Drew's patient care.  But I have been attacking his methods from the get-go.  For instance, in April 2011 I criticized his reliance on magical 12-step and moralistic temperance thinking while claiming he is practicing modern neuroscience, as well as his irresponsible public pronouncements on Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.  In January of 2012, I (writing with Alan Cudmore) pointed out the dangers of television intervention programs at large. If people had taken taken such objections seriously earier, then perhaps. . . .

Szalavitz focused on the detoxification conducted by Dr. Drew, although McCready killed herself years after appearing on the show.  I believe the major problem with Dr. Drew is one he shares with the entire medical-cum-12-step industry -- the failure to teach coping skills in favor of pointing at patients' heads and claiming addiction is a brain disease (see Anne Fletcher's excellent book, Inside Rehab).  McCready needed to learn in treatment better relationship and parenting skills, how to cope with emotional distress, and that to use or drink again or to experience distress following treatment did not prove that she had failed.  In the 12 steps, once the person uses again they are taught that they can exercise no restraint or self-protection.  The last idea is a false concept with disastrous consequences -- see Amy Winehouse's death following rehab.  The opposite approach of teaching people to build safeguards into their lives is called harm reduction -- an idea Dr. Drew has apparently never heard of. 

That McCready (and Winehouse) didn't learn such things is a horrible missed opportunity and, of course, a human tragedy.  That Dr. Drew is still out flacking exactly the same garbled mess of a treatment philosophy on our major media is a horror show, and a national tragedy.

Stanton has developed the on-line Life Process Program (TM), and has written (with Ilse Thompson), Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT Program.

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Disclosure: A producer for Dr. Drew's CNN show called to invite me to discuss adolescent drinking, to which I agreed.  After apparently doing a better Google search of my views on Dr. Drew, he called back to say, "Dr. Peele -- are you kidding me -- we would never have you on."