Some "Dr. Phil" guests accuse show of enabling addictions

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By: Andrea Park | CBS News
December 28, 2017

Some former guests on "Dr. Phil" are accusing the show of enabling their drug or alcohol abuse problems. Todd Herzog, a former "Survivor" winner who appeared on "Dr. Phil" to discuss his alcoholism, told the health news publication STAT he found a bottle of vodka in his dressing room, which he drank, and that he was given Xanax to "calm his nerves." Family members of two other guests also said that "Dr. Phil" staffers directed them toward Skid Row to buy drugs when the guests were in withdrawal.

Dr. Phil declined to talk to STAT, a Boston Globe-owned health news site, but Martin Greenberg, a psychologist who serves as the show's director of professional affairs, denied the claims and said guests have never been provided alcohol or directed toward drugs.

He specifically denied the claim by Herzog.

"We do not do that with this guest or any other," Greenberg told STAT, calling the allegations "absolutely, unequivocally untrue." A statement from the show, signed by Greenberg, said that Herzog was "medically supervised the entire time he was involved with tapings of 'Dr. Phil.'"

The show also said that guests with substance abuse problems are medically supervised "100 percent of the time."

Herzog told STAT he is now sober and that "I'm grateful in a lot of ways for the show. For getting me help in the nicest places in the country. That's a gift right there."

Greenberg said in an earlier interview that Dr. Phil does not try to exploit people. He said, "These people volunteer to come on. They beg to come on. And he tries to treat them with respect … and to give them the opportunity to get help if they want to do that. It's not a complicated formula."

But some former guests and their family members told STAT that they were not given proper medical supervision as they faced withdrawal from alcohol or drugs before the show. STAT reports that guests wait up to 48 hours before their tapings, and some end up looking for drugs as a result of the detox.

Marianne Smith, whose niece Jordan appeared on the show, told STAT that when Jordan was going through withdrawal, she and Jordan's mother were scared and told a staffer that she needed heroin. Smith said a producer told her to go to Skid Row, and warned her not to tell anyone that they suggested the trip. Smith claimed that her niece had no medical supervision.

Greenberg responded, "We could go on and talk about Jordan L. or ten others. Same reality. All had medical supervision."

Joelle King-Parrish told STAT that when her pregnant daughter Kaitlin began going through withdrawal from heroin, a "Dr. Phil" show staffer went with them to Skid Row and the show later aired footage from the trip. Greenberg said the staffer "simply documented the natural behavior she observed, which would have occurred whether she was there or not."

The show's statement claimed that STAT "cherry-picked" claims from a few disgruntled former guests.

"Few people contact us just to let us know how well things are going," it said. "The fact you can 'cherry pick' three, or thirty, or three hundred guests for that matter, who seek to blame others for their plight or struggle in life, is not the least bit surprising."

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