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Did Pills Play Role in Houston`s Death?
Aired February 13, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.
Whitney Houston dead before her time. What really happened two nights ago at the Beverly Hilton? A history of addiction and reports of pills in her room, a stark reminder of the epidemic of prescription drug abuse in this country.
Are some doctors as out of control as their celebrity patients? How can we protect ourselves and our kids from the legacy of addiction they see in Hollywood, sometimes in their own homes?
Let`s get started.
Tonight, inside Whitney Houston`s tragic death. Here is the latest.
(JENNIFER HUDSON SINGING "I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU")
PINSKY (voice-over): Last night, a black cloud over the Grammy`s, Hollywood in shock over the loss of a true icon, diva Whitney Houston dead at 48.
LL COOL J, HOST, GRAMMY AWARDS 2012: We remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit, amen.
PINSKY: Tonight, what killed Whitney Houston? Were drugs involved and what kind? Tons of questions, few discrete answers.
ED WINTER, ASST. CHIEF, L.A. COUNTY CORONER`S OFFICE: I know there`s reports that she maybe was drowned or did she overdose. But, no, we wouldn`t make a final determination until all the tests are in.
PINSKY: Whitney infamously battled addiction. She admitted to using cocaine, marijuana and pills, but tonight using crack in this ABC interview with Diane Sawyer.
WHITNEY HOUSTON, SINGER/ACTRESS: Crack is whack.
DIANE SAWYER, HOST, ABC NEWS: If you had to name the devil for you, the biggest devil among them?
HOUSTON: That would be me.
PINSKY: If Whitney, a self described drug user with very public problems died from taking benzodiazepine medication, you need to take a deeper look at what that means.
PINSKY: Two days before her death, Whitney was spotted leaving a Hollywood club, she was sweaty. She had given her last performance of her life that night singing "Jesus Loves Me" with Kelly Price. And Price defended with this behavior at the party. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY PRICE, SINGER: Whitney partied. She drank champagne. She sang and gave a performance that was unscheduled because I never expected her to take the stage. I knew she was going to be there for me and she was. And as I addressed the audience to give acknowledgment to her being there, she decided to come up on stage. And after we embraced each other, she said give me the microphone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Now, I got to tell you, when I saw that interview - and right now it gets me very, very worked up, very angry. Now If I do my job correctly, by the end of this evening, you`ll have a clearer understanding of what I`m talking about. The way people are recovering poor Whitney`s demise I think is superficial, inaccurate.
For instance, here you have a good friend of hers, people around her, saying that she`s great, she`s toasting champagne. This is a woman with chronic addiction, a woman with chronic multiple treatments for addiction, was just treated last May at an outpatient program where the goal is abstinence, complete sobriety.
A person with that kind of history of addiction who is holding a glass of champagne is literally drinking on their grave. That`s what`s happening. She`s holding a poison for her.
So for no one to recognize that around her to me is just - I`m outraged by it, and I`m saddened by it. So we`re going to start this evening by talking to friends about Whitney and what the last days were like. Then we`re going to get into it a little bit with people that understand this condition a little more thoroughly, who have been where Whitney was and survived, but for the grace of God.
Joining me now, Nicci Gilbert, recording artist who`s with Whitney on Thursday night. Music producer Soulshock, who`s worked with Whitney, producing her 1999 hit, "Heartbreak Hotel," and senior executive editor of RadarOnline and "Star" Magazine, Dylan Howard is here, he`s been on top of this story.
Dylan, I`m going to start with you. What have you got for the latest?
DYLAN HOWARD, SR. EXECUTIVE EDITOR, RADARONLINE.COM: Well, Dr. Drew, this is the - what has been reported to be the cocktail that could be found as part of this autopsy and toxicology report. We have had it confirmed from multiple sources that the drugs Lorazepam and Valium were found -
PINSKY: OK. That`s Ativan and Valium -
HOWARD: -- were found inside.
PINSKY: -- which should never ever, ever be used together and never ever, ever be prescribed to an addict, certainly not an addict given a bottle of pills. So whoever the doctors were that did that, we need to find out. Did somebody look into that?
HOWARD: Yes, the coroner`s office as part of the investigation has already flagged the prospect that it will speak to Whitney Houston`s treating physicians and also go through her medical records.
HOWARD: The right step as part of any death probe. But these - these are the drugs that have also been reported to have been in her room as part of the sweep after she died. Ibuprofen, Xanax, Midol, amoxicillin, and as I said Lorazepam and Valium.
That under any circumstances would be a lethal combination. Mix that with booze as we saw -
PINSKY: There you go.
HOWARD: -- that she drank on Thursday night, she also drank in the hotel, the Beverly Hilton on Friday night, and more photos today showing a champagne glass and a bottle of beer in her room, found in her room. It most certainly would be a cocktail that would have done this.
PINSKY: So, so sad. Now, again, Dylan, we at HLN can`t independently confirm this. I`m hearing a lot of this, too. It makes sense.
You know, it`s hard to kill yourself with Xanax. You have to do a combination. I wouldn`t be surprised if you saw some painkillers in there, too. That`s sort of the lethal combos, the painkillers, the benzos and the alcohol.
Nicci, you were with her towards the last few days? What was she like?
NICCI GILBERT, WAS WITH WHITNEY TWO NIGHTS BEFORE HER DEATH: Yes, I was. And I have to support what Kelly Price said. I mean, you know, at the end of the day -
PINSKY: She`s drinking. She is in a horrible, horrible addiction.
GILBERT: I think what - I understand, I understand. But the problem didn`t start that night.
PINSKY: Of course not.
GILBERT: People need to look 15 years ago to that night.
PINSKY: Absolutely, absolutely.
GILBERT: So she was celebrating a friend`s Grammy nomination. We were all singing, I think what Kelly was defending was the fact that we had all the press outlets that were reporting that she was disheveled and, you know, she was high and all this other stuff. She was with her daughter. We were all having a wonderful, wonderful time. There was no excessive drinking. There was nothing over the top or crazy -
HOWARD: She looked disheveled, though. You must admit it. If you looked at those photos -
GILBERT: She was at the church, she would have been disheveled. When you`re a singer -
GILBERT: Yes, of course you sweat. I perspire. She`s a recording artist.
PINSKY: Bleeding? Bleeding?
GILBERT: She`s probably bleeding because of a razor?
HOWARD: Was she involved in a fight that night?
GILBERT: No, she was not involved in a fight that night.
HOWARD: There were reports that she was involved in a fight, an altercation with another singer.
GILBERT: There was not a fight and she wasn`t -
HOWARD: But she exchanged words with somebody?
GILBERT: It was not a fight. It was not a fight. It was a misunderstanding about a seat.
GILBERT: And she then apologized. Stacy Francis, who is the other singer -
GILBERT: -- we`re going to keep it 100 percent and be real about it -
GILBERT: -- accepted her apology. We all moved on and hugged and kissed, and it was no big deal after that.
GILBERT: So there was no fight. The blood on her leg was probably from a razor, which if you`re a woman, you`ve had that experience before. I mean, there was no fighting. It was a wonderful evening and that wasn`t the case.
PINSKY: OK. All right. So she had a nice evening, so it makes it extra super sad.
GILBERT: It makes extra super sad for what reason?
PINSKY: Sad. That there was a lovely evening and everyone was celebrating with her, and boom.
GILBERT: Yes, it makes it very sad.
PINSKY: Super sad.
GILBERT: But what makes it more sad is that we look at the situation and we say to ourselves oh, my God, where was she nights before or weeks before, and we look at these photos, and we don`t hold the people accountable who need to be held accountable.
PINSKY: I agree with you. And I also, the other thing is by getting into this conversation about the illness that this poor woman had that we don`t cast a shadow on her or her life. Soulshock, you`re shaking your head.
GILBERT: Absolutely. That`s very important.
SOULSHOCK, PRODUCED HOUSTON`S HIT "HEARTBREAK HOTEL": Very much.
PINSKY: So let`s go.
SOULSHOCK: Well, I think, you know, this business is tough business. You know, I see a lot of stuff in the studios, and, you know, to keep up the appearance that, you know, you have to - a superstar can be very hard.
SOULSHOCK: And, you know, in the end, Whitney was an amazing singer, the world`s best singer, and all this stuff we`re talking about, drugs, whatever, which is of course horrible, but let`s not forget who she was. She was the best singer ever.
PINSKY: But - so let`s just remind ourselves that addiction afflicts the richest, brightest, most talented, it just does.
PINSKY: It`s not Whitney drug addict, it`s Whitney the wonderful human being who had - just think of it as cancer, but let`s not pretend she didn`t have it, she had it.
SOULSHOCK: Well, I like that very much. And one thing, if I may say, you know, at Clive Davis party, which I was at, Richard Branson came up on stage and had a great speech about exactly drugs and how we treat drugs.
But one of the things he`s saying that I liked very much is instead of treating drugs as crime and putting all the people who are drug addicts in prison, how about looking at it as a disease and sickness. As a country like Portugal I knew does, that actually have succeeded in putting down the drug, you know, wars.
PINSKY: Hear, hear. I`ll vote for that.
HOWARD: Well, I was just going to say, in regards to that, Reputation.com which analyzes the amount of tweets found that that night when news broke that Whitney passed, 78 percent of people remembered her for her talent, two percent in discussions on Twitter on the night she died only were negative tweets about her and her past.
So I think in a lot of ways, we are remembering her for the true talent that she was, the once in a generation performer, but at the same time, having this discussion I think is only a good thing.
PINSKY: It`s a good thing because what`s happening in Hollywood is happening throughout America. The same night that she died, I promise you a thousand other addicts died of prescription death, and that`s what kills me. It is at the hands of my peers.
Just because my peers are prescribing this medication, it doesn`t mean they aren`t deadly. Think about it, Dylan. Think how many - think how many rock stars have used illicit drugs for how many years. You`ve got - whether it`s Ozzy or Motley Crue or The Rolling Stones -
GILBERT: Billie Holiday -
PINSKY: -- they used horrible, horrible illicit drugs, they didn`t get involved with prescription drugs and many of them are still here. Many of them are still here.
Now, the last five years, prescription drugs hit the scene and it is killing my patient, it is killing celebrities. It`s killing people who have this thing we call addiction and I for one am sick of it. This is a sad indictment the fact that we`re sitting here.
That Michael Jackson -
HOWARD: Anna Nicole Smith.
PINSKY: Brittany Murphy.
HOWARD: Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy.
PINSKY: You name it, it`s getting sickening.
All right, guys, thank you, very good discussion. Appreciate it.
Coming up, a report, Whitney was perhaps picking up prescription bottles in her final days. And I want to get - they were all filled at the same pharmacy, same pharmacy where Michael Jackson got his Demerol. Again, we can`t confirm that. But that`s what we`re hearing.
So why - why would my peers give someone with a chronic known addiction a bottle of prescription drugs? Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, great to see you.
HOUSTON: God bless you. Bye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Whitney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: I mean, how can you not watch that and smile? She was part of all our youth. She was on top of the world, and she had some issues. She had some stuff going on.
Now, the question we`re asking tonight is how much did prescription medication contribute to the superstar`s demise?
TMZ reports Whitney visited two Beverly Hills doctors before she died and got prescriptions at the same pharmacy, it`s called the Michael Fine Pharmacy, where Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith amongst others got their medications.
Now, HLN, CNN cannot confirm these reports independently, but this is what we`re hearing.
Joining me now, former L.A. prosecutor fighting to stop overprescribing a medication, Danette Meyers. Recovering addict, Jennifer Gimenez, she`s appeared with me on VH1 Celebrity Rehab." She`s also spokesperson and treatment professional at the Clean Center. And anesthesiologist and medical director at the Washington Pain Center, Dr. John Dombrowski.
John, I brought you in here to do a couple of things for me. One, help people understand how the benzodiazepine with alcohol combo can kill somebody.
DR. JOHN DOMBROWSKI, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON PAIN CENTER: Oh, it`s traumatic. When you have a benzodiazepine, which is basically like a Valium-like product from the `60s, it causes respiratory depression. It`s very hard to kill yourself with that independently.
However, if you start adding other medications or alcohol to that, it short-circuits or breaks through that ability to have significant respiratory depression and you can definitely die from that.
PINSKY: Do you - do you feel like I do, that probably if this is what killed her, she died and then sort of slipped into the water. I think it`s kind of unlikely that she drowned, don`t you?
DOMBROWSKI: Well, I guess indirectly she drowned. But what would normally happen for you or I if we fell asleep in the water, we have water coming in our nose, you`d want to fight and get the heck out of the water situation, we didn`t want to drown.
However, if your mentation or your central nervous system is so depressed with these, you know, benzodiazepines, these medications, you obviously can`t fight and you fall asleep in the water and then subsequently drown.
PINSKY: It`s really just the same thing as stopping breathing. It just - it further helping it along with the water.
We`re looking at pictures alongside both you and myself, John, of Whitney visiting a physician there, those last visits. And then, John, what do you think about this pharmacy that is prescribing it? I mean it feels to me like they`re asleep at the wheel there or they`re duplicitous in all this.
Do we have a bigger problem here with - well, of course we do. But, I mean, don`t you feel like I do that there should be responsibility brought to bear there?
DOMBROWSKI: Well, again, this is where we have checks and balances. The physicians write the medications. It`s up to the pharmacy then to fill those medications. If the pharmacist has the responsibility to dispense these medications starts to realize, hey, this person is getting it from other people, this seems to be a very large amount, I received phone calls from pharmacy saying, hey, do you know that patient is getting that medication from someone else to prevent such an accident like this exactly.
PINSKY: Yes. I`ve had many of those calls and I appreciate those calls, for goodness sakes.
PINSKY: Now, Jennifer, you`ve been where Whitney was, right? I mean, do you want to tell people briefly that story? And then -
JENNIFER GIMENEZ, MODEL AND ACTRESS: Yes. I mean, again, you know, I`ve suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction my whole entire life, and I`ve had stints of sobriety.
And at one point I had a couple of years sober and I couldn`t sleep. So I went and I saw a doctor and he gave me Ambien. From that, Ambien it stopped working after awhile. And I called him and I said, you know, it`s not working any more. And he`s like, just take 15 milligrams. And boom, blackout. I don`t remember anything. And I would take 30 at a time. And I had no idea in my blackout.
So, of course, I`d go see doctors, and you can sweet talk any doctor into anything. They don`t care.
PINSKY: But you are often running. Once the Ambien triggered your addiction, off you went.
GIMENEZ: I remember you being my doctor at the time when you were, you said, you know, you - I said what happened, I don`t get it, I was just taking a sleeping pill. And you said it woke the beast.
GIMENEZ: And I`m off and running, I don`t know any more, and I`m going to three different pharmacies, and my insurance would cover one month, and then I`d say, oh, I lost the medication. And one of these pharmacies being, you know, someone that I`m very well aware of in Beverly Hills.
PINSKY: The same pharmacy we`re talking about tonight.
GIMENEZ: I would say it is in Beverly Hills and I wouldn`t deny it.
PINSKY: Let me ask you do this. What do we do with this? I mean, how do we help doctors understand what addiction is?
GIMENEZ: How do we help doctors? I mean the fact that they`re looking at you and you`re just money at this point -
PINSKY: I`m not sure of that.
GIMENEZ: -- and there are so many - there are a lot of doctors, though, Dr. Drew, that don`t care about it. They just - they get cuts from -
PINSKY: No, they don`t. They just don`t. I think they`re busy doing their thing and they don`t understand. They just don`t understand.
GIMENEZ: But I`m just telling you (ph), I go to a doctor and I`ll say, you know, I`m having this and they`re like I`m going to give you a pill. And I`m like I`m a recovering addict, like I never -
PINSKY: What else they have to do?
GIMENEZ: -- I`m a spokesperson for recovery.
PINSKY: I understand that because they don`t understand addiction.
GIMENEZ: They`re narcotics. You give me non-narcotics -
PINSKY: But they don`t get that giving you a benzo or an opiate is sending you to your grave.
GIMENEZ: Yes. It`s been - they don`t know.
PINSKY: That`s where it`s going. So then how do we do this? What do we do? Do we need legal legislation?
DANETTE MEYERS, LOS ANGELES D.A.: We definitely need legislation, Dr. Drew. One of the things I`d like to do is write some legislation based on this whole problem that we have in California and throughout the United States, throughout the world actually.
PINSKY: Florida is making progress, aren`t they?
MEYERS: Presently, California has a prescription drug monitoring program.
PINSKY: But it`s too cumbersome. You can`t -
GIMENEZ: (INAUDIBLE) -
PINSKY: Jennifer is breaking out of her skin. Go ahead, Jennifer.
GIMENEZ: In Florida, do you know there`s more pain clinics than there are fast food places?
PINSKY: I know. That`s why they`re trying to change things.
GIMENEZ: Nine out of ten people are dying from prescription drugs.
PINSKY: What`s the answer to that (INAUDIBLE)?
MEYERS: The answer is you must mandate that all doctors, Urgent Care facilities, Emergency Care facilities, pharmacists, they must register with the Department of Justice, the California Department of Justice.
PINSKY: We must. We do, we, as practitioners.
PINSKY: But then how do we monitor -
MEYERS: To get on to the system which is the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
PINSKY: So they monitor what we do.
MEYERS: Exactly. In California right now they have a database called CURES, C-U-R-E-S where every year California puts into that database every single controlled substance that is dispensed in California.
PINSKY: How do doctors find out about that?
MEYERS: You register - and problem is you don`t make it cumbersome. You register every time somebody comes in to your facility and said I need Xanax, I need this and that.
PINSKY: This is at the pharmacy.
MEYERS: You go into the system. You get that patient`s activity record and you find out whether some other doctors prescribed it. A pharmacist will find out whether some other pharmacy has - has dispensed that medication.
PINSKY: OK. I`ve got to go. I`m going to your all questions and answers about Whitney Houston after this. Stay with us.
(HOUSTON SINGING "SO EMOTIONAL" AND "I`M EVERY WOMAN")
GLADYS KNIGHT, SINGER: I`m venturing out to say this and may get some flack, but there will never be another voice like that.
(HOUSTON SINGING "I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY")
DIANA ROSS, SINGER: I remember the first time I saw her, first on records, you know, just a beautiful girl
KIM BURRELL, GOSPEL SINGER: She`s my sister and she`ll always be my sister.
(HOUSTON SINGING "I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU")
PINSKY: Now, as I said, many of you have comments and questions about Whitney Houston`s death.
But before we get to them, I want to explain something. You know, there`s all of this sort of bizarre banter out there. Again, I don`t think other commentators are getting this thing right.
I know addiction, I treat it for 20 years. And think about it this way. When somebody has addiction, when that trigger, when that switch is thrown in the brain of that genetic potential of this thing we call addiction, think about it this way. They literally love drugs and alcohol more than anything else in their life, including survival itself.
So when you`re trying to talk somebody out of addiction, remember, they love it more than anything. Think about what you`re fighting, they love it more than their family, more than their job, more than anything.
Joining me on the line from Torrance, go ahead there, Jon.
JON, TORRANCE, CALIFORNIA (via telephone): Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Jon.
JON: Your information seems to indicate that Whitney`s addiction robbed off her talent and her life. This is very sad and maddening, is that the pitfall of celebrities or celebrities are so surrounded by sycophants that no one has the courage to say you are sick and we are getting you treatment.
PINSKY: Yes. And we`ve been talking about that, Jon, tonight that people didn`t see her with her chronic problems of life threatening addiction holding a glass of champagne, not pulling her aside and going, Whitney, we`re doomed, we`re in trouble now, we`re in trouble again, we`re in trouble.
Yes. And by the way, though, I want to say one thing about what you said, Jon, did not rob her of her talent, did not rob her of anything. She contributed in a massive way. This is a rich, wonderful human being who had this condition. She wasn`t the condition, she suffered from the condition.
Dee writes, "I think that Whitney Houston`s addiction to drugs killed her. I feel that like many other entertainers, they will not only find prescription drugs, they will also find illegal drugs in her system. This is such a sad, sad story, another entertainer gone so soon."
Yes, yes, Dee, but what I`m sick and tired of is that prescription drugs, not most of the time, all the time now, it`s sickening.
Sandy writes, "We should give her family and her daughter space. She doesn`t need to be in the media like this. Bobbi Kristina didn`t ask to be famous with her business all over the media."
That`s absolutely true. I mean, this isn`t Bobbi Kristina, this is somebody`s daughter who just lost her mom, and her mom died of a terminal condition we call addiction. Do not make light of that.
Kim on the line from Illinois. Kim go ahead.
KIM, OSWEGO, ILLINOIS (via telephone): Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Kim.
KIM: I notice a common thread between Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse where they both experienced public humiliation by being booed on stage. Do you feel that this accelerated their demise and also what does that say about society`s understanding of addiction in general showing no apathy?
PINSKY: Showing no empathy, I agree with you, that`s a complete lack of empathy, people who boo her or merely because she is suffering from her condition publicly.
But, no, those sorts of things, those sorts of experiences, particularly at this stage where Whitney was, I don`t think it contributes significantly.
Finally, Andrea on Facebook writes, "I think we need to go after the doctors that support these habits just like we went after the one who enabled Michael Jackson."
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I`m - I`m just tired of this. We`re going to have to follow this and we`re going to have to see what the coroner and the do with this. Because this is absurd, please learn this if nothing else happened from Whitney`s death.
Up next, we`re talking with an entertainment insider who can address the bigger issue that I`m talking about, which is that of prescription drug enablers.
Go to HLNTV.com for the latest on Whitney Houston`s death and for more on my take about fame, addiction, and prescription drugs.
We`ll be back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Coming up, what should the entertainment industry do for drug abusers and addicts in their midst? What responsibility do those in power have for the personal behavior of celebrities? It`s time for movers and shakers to step up.
But first, doctors and stars. Why do some physicians fall under the spell of fame? Does it make them enablers?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): Welcome back. Now, we are continuing our discussion about Whitney Houston`s death. She has a long, well-documented history of addiction. The coroner says that medication was found in her room. "Los Angeles Times" reports that investigators took several bottles of prescription pills.
It brings up the question, how drug addicts get medication that can kill them? Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, you just -- you can go down the line. Any of my patients that died today, they died because one of my peers gave them prescription medication that is addictive. Addiction destroys families.
I`ve got horrible concerns about Whitney`s 18-year-old daughter, poor Bobbi Kristina, how she deals with this. Yesterday, in fact, she was rushed to the hospital. We don`t really know what for. They`re calling it stress and anxiety, reasonably so.
We`ve got an interesting panel of guests now joining me. First, via phone, goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, also vice president of public affairs at Hazelden Treatment Center, William Moyers, and host of the "Insider," Kevin Frazier.
Now, Frazier -- Kevin, you interviewed Whitney for the upcoming movie, "Sparkle?" Is that something she was filming this last fall?
KEVIN FRAZIER, HOST, "THE INSIDER": She finished filming in the fall, and you know, was going to be really released this summer.
PINSKY: I got to stop you and just say that the fact that she was filming a movie in the fall after being treated in the spring is a terrible sign for somebody with addiction. But, I guess, she got through it OK.
FRAZIER: She got through it OK, and it was a healthy and happy Whitney. And, you know, everyone talked about, it was a big family in Detroit, and maybe it was a good thing, because she was in a family atmosphere, Jordin Sparks, the other actors and actresses, they all kind of stuck together in a family atmosphere. That was probably good for her.
FRAZIER: But I`ll tell you, interesting thing, Curt Franklin on the red carpet of the Grammy yesterday said, the bigger picture here is to look at how these entertainers are perceived and treated. That you know, you`re pushed and pushed and pushed to perform night after night.
FRAZIER: And you go from town to town, and then, movie to movie. And if you trace back to when Whitney sat down with Oprah Winfrey and she said, you know, I did three albums, then I did three movies in a row, and things started to go sideways, and I needed a little help. I needed a little extra push, and that`s where the trouble starts.
FRAZIER: We have to look at how we treat these people and our expectations of these people.
PINSKY: No, Kevin, I absolutely agree. Again, I keep saying that Robert Downey is the paradigm. When he kept trying to go back to work prematurely, he kept relapsing. Then, he left unemployment, contemplated that he should never work again. He didn`t concern himself with his work or whether he should work, he focused on his sobriety, and now sober, glorious career.
FRAZIER: Yes. This is as old as Elvis, let`s remember that. I mean -- and the other thing is that, nowadays, you can`t have performers going out on the street to score. But they can score from their doctor.
PINSKY: Right. OK. Kevin, that`s exactly where I want to continue this conversation. So, Chris Lawford, I know you and I have talked at length about this. What do we do about it? People go into physicians, physicians not understanding addiction.
VOICE OF CHRISTOPHER LAWFORD, CONSULTANT, CARON TREATMENT CENTERS: I mean, Drew, good to be here. Listen, you know, I think there`s a number of concerns here. I mean, it`s unfortunate that we really have this conversation. We really only have this conversation when a celebrity dies. This is an issue, as you well know, that is effecting, you know, 20-plus million people in this country, 250 million people worldwide.
This is a serious issue for a lot of folks. And, you know, unfortunately, we`re just coming, I think, into our own in terms of understanding it, certainly with the science and certainly behaviorally. I mean, with regard to physicians, there`s, you know, three days of medical education they get about this illness.
This is the number one public health issue facing this country and arguably the world, and our doctors know very little about it.
PINSKY: Chris, let me interrupt you real quick, Chris. Let me just say that even those that know something about it will debate whether or not abstinence is the goal. We still have those kinds of conversations.
LAWFORD: Yes, absolutely. And I`m not saying that, you know, you and I don`t really have to get into a question of that, I mean, you know, harm (ph) reduction, abstinence, whatever your model is, the more you understand this thing, the less likely you might be to be part of the problem. Now, I have no idea what happened with Miss Houston.
You know, this is something that`s a little premature given the fact that we don`t really know yet. I mean, obviously we can make guesses about what she died from, educated guesses, but the truth is, we don`t have a toxicology report. We don`t know for sure. We would never diagnose somebody`s death from any other illness the way we`re diagnosing this.
So, again, you and I both know that this illness has very specific characteristics to it that get us into a lot of trouble in terms of both public policy and in terms of our treatment of it medically.
PINSKY: Absolutely, Chris. I want to go out to William Moyers. He is, again, the vice president of public affairs at the Hazelden Program. Bill, I mean, how do you see this? I`m sure it stacks up the same way for you.
WILLIAM MOYERS, VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, HAZELDEN: Well, a drug is a drug is a drug, Drew. An addict is an addict is an addict. It doesn`t matter whether you`re famous, rich, or whether you`re unemployed, living on the streets.
What I think one of the issues that we haven`t really talked about and what we need to do a better job of educating people around is telling addicts and alcoholics who are in treatment and telling addicts and alcoholics who are in recovery what that means, and how they need to be part of the solution.
At Hazelden, we`re always instructing our patients on how they have to be vigilant around their use of pain medications and other pharmacological agents that might be used to treat other conditions.
I mean, whether we give Ambien, whether we give Vicodin or Percocet, addicts and alcoholics have a responsibility to be part of the solution and to be able to manage their own recoveries and to recognize what it means and how risky it can be to drink a glass of champagne or take a Vicodin or you know, take a Percocet once they`ve been treated and in recovery.
All of us need to do a better job of educating people in recovery about what that means.
PINSKY: Yes. William, I completely agree with you. I always tell my patients when I`m treating them that when they interact with the medical system, they`re in danger. They`re in danger and they have to be responsible for that. Go ahead, Bill.
MOYERS: And you know, Drew, as you pointed out, I mean, addicts and alcoholics love to get high. They need every excuse and no excuse to do it. And I think part of the solution is, you know, recovery management, which is a really important component of managing a chronic illness because we know there`s no cure, at least, not yet for addiction.
But we know at Hazelden that there is a solution. A solution is treatment and personal recovery. And personal recovery means people like me who`s been clean and sober 18 years need to be part of managing our illness and being very vigilant and telling our doctors and I`m telling our family what it means for us to be in recovery if we`re taking pain medication.
LAWFORD: Drew, can I jump in here?
FRAZIER: Can I say one thing real quick? I think that`s beautiful, but when you talk about celebrities, you`re talking about people earning massive amounts of money, not only for themselves, but many other people.
And so, often, it`s whatever will keep that golden goose laying the eggs. And so, it doesn`t matter. There`s no concern until the, literally, you lose the golden goose which is sad.
PINSKY: Chris, you wanted to ring in here?
LAWFORD: Yes. I mean, you know, I think there`s no question, there`s a culture of enabling around people with affluence and people with power and people with money. That goes without saying. I think we saw in this, you know, this case recently where the doctor was convicted. You know, I hope that that sends a message to the medical community, at least.
Obviously, there are a lot of other people around celebrities, but Bill brings up an important point. Not just in terms of recovery in terms of dealing with your drug and alcohol use, but what is recovery. I just recently finished a book. And I interview Nora Volko, the head of NIDA, and she know her, Drew and Bill (ph).
She said to me, we know a lot about prevention. We know a lot about treatment, because we spend a lot of money looking at those. We know very little about recovery. But there is a recovery movement going on, and folks need to stand up and be counted. We need to, as a group and as a movement, need to start to make our voices heard, so it`s not at these times that we get to talk about this in a public context. Nobody really wants to deal with this issue.
PINSKY: Chris, again, I knew I`d be singing to the choir when I talk to you. I completely agree. Last word here, Kevin. I got to go.
FRAZIER: I just want to say, I have sat down and talked to a record company exec who was told me that in certain cities, they have certain people where they can get certain things from to make sure the artists are happy, and that`s the problem. You can go wherever you need.
PINSKY: -- makes the hairs stand on the back of my neck when you say that, Kevin, because it makes me crazy.
PINSKY: It`s sick and it`s sad. We lost another one because of that. All right. As Whitney, as Michael Jackson, as Amy Winehouse, as Brittany Murphy, I mean, it just keeps going, Heath Ledger. Entertainers, important people, great people died young before their time. got to do something about this. Now, here we go to break. Here`s Whitney now. We`re going to remember her at her best right here.
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PINSKY: Chills, now tears. I don`t know any of us can watch that without having an emotional reaction now. That was 19-year-old Whitney Houston on the "Merv Griffin Show" in 1993. That particular performance was credited with changing her life. Tonight, the circumstances surrounding her death remain clouded. There`s a history of addiction.
Again, I want to point out, if I`ve done my job right tonight, I hope you understand there`s a disease called addiction just like cancer, and then, there`s this person, Whitney Houston, this fantastic artist that blessed us with her talent. She suffered from a condition. She wasn`t the condition.
Of course, it`s a condition that claimed many others, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, you know, here we go, just go down the list. Joining me now, Ernie Singleton, he`s the former president of MCA Records. Nicci Gilbert is a recording artist. She was with Whitney two nights before her death.
Now, Ernie, this business, I was trying to get people to understand the difference between the person and their condition. And, you said, well, it may be obvious to me, it may not be obvious to my audience, so I wish you dig into that a little.
ERNIE SINGLETON, SINGLETON ENTERTAINMENT CORP.: You talked about the person versus the condition, assuming that everyone in the audience understands the difference in what addiction really is.
SINGLETON: The condition, the compelling effect of what alcohol, marijuana, pills, heroin, cocaine, what drugs do. And this shouldn`t be about, in my opinion, this should not be about we keep flashing Whitney. We have a bigger problem. We have a societal problem.
PINSKY: Tell me.
SINGLETON: What about the doctors that prescribe? I mean, young kids --
PINSKY: That`s what I`m yelling about --
SINGLETON: The designer drugs. What are we doing legally to put the medical profession in check and to put pharmaceuticals in check to stop people from getting these pills and these different medications. Doctor, if you gave me two sleeping pills right now, and I tell you I`m not going to sleep, you know I`m going to sleep, don`t you?
SINGLETON: Because the drugs do what they do.
SINGLETON: There are drugs that are prescribed that you don`t have to be an addict that becomes addicting. Why don`t we address those issues?
PINSKY: Listen, you`re singing to the choir here, too. I mean, I don`t know the answer. And my hope is, my hope is, that`s why I`m sort of dedicating this program tonight to this, is a clearer understanding to what this thing is, first of all. Let`s at least understand what we`re dealing with here. Nicci, you have something?
NICCI GILBERT, RECORDING ARTIST, KNEW WHITNEY: I think we`re dealing with, specifically, as it pertains to the entertainment industry, it`s an industry where pretty much everything you want, you can have. I remember my struggles with weight. Oh, Nicci, we have a pill for that. And there are people all around you who will offer that to you, these doctors. And unfortunately, I think the industry has to take accountability and responsibility for that.
PINSKY: I do.
SINGLETON: How do you make it the industry`s issue when in theory, celebrities, you being a celebrity, drug dealers seem to find the artist and that give it to you for free --
PINSKY: And not only drug dealers, guys, how about doctors that are lit up and gratified by taking care of celebrities. They`re going to get turned on by that. Nicci is coming to see me. Right. And not only that, you say, I haven`t felt this good in a long time, doctor. Give me more of that.
GILBERT: Yes, absolutely.
PINSKY: You`re the greatest doctor ever.
SINGLETON: I just mentioned to you about prescription drugs that you can become addicted without realizing it. What about all the women who some years ago got addicted to valium?
SINGLETON: What do you do with that? What do you do with these situations? What is being done by the government, by the medical profession, the AMA, whoever regulates doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry to look at what people are getting? I heard someone earlier on your show talk about they were in the process of.
I have a problem. I find a 22-year-old who`s not in the entertainment industry, who`s a diabetic, who`s a pot head, and now, he runs around flaunting his legal marijuana. What do I tell him?
GILBERT: That`s a much bigger issue.
PINSKY: Well, listen, Ernie, you and I need to chat a little bit, because whoever gave him that prescription, just like whoever gave Whitney her prescription, didn`t understand addiction. That`s the problem.
GILBERT: Or did they not understand addiction. I mean, at the end of the day, you have a real clear understanding. There`s been example after example after example. People don`t know Diana Washington years ago died from diet pill and alcohol addiction. (INAUDIBLE), same thing. Prescription pills are everywhere.
PINSKY: Let me get to this. Let me get to this, because we`re not going to be able to legislate this evening, as much as I would love to. Each of you give me just a brief lesson that Whitney taught you that you can share with my audience. What did we get from Whitney? What gifts besides the obvious, her talent, what did she give us? What can we take away? Ernie, Nicci.
GILBERT: I like to say that Whitney Houston made it painfully aware that the addiction doesn`t really matter until after you`re gone. It doesn`t matter until you`re dead. Michael Jackson, doesn`t matter until you`re dead. Everyone wants to know what he was doing the night before, what Michael was doing the night before, what did he take?
Everyone is in a frenzy to find out what these artists are taking after they die. Why aren`t record companies doing the same thing that these football, NFL and NBA, some mandatory drug testing. They got 360 contracts where they take everything else. Why can`t they say in that agreement, you`re going to be tested randomly.
If you have an issue, why aren`t there doctors that record companies work with on a regular basis that they know if you get sick, you go to this guy, because he`s not just going to give you anything you want. And when you start taking anything you want as an artist or as a performer, then you should be held accountable for that then, not after you die.
PINSKY: I like that. I love that. Ernie.
SINGLETON: I have to go to a different place.
SINGLETON: You know, I think what we do as individuals, we do as individuals. I`ve known a lot of people who were drug addicts that who they lived with didn`t become a drug addict. So, I don`t think that`s the real answer, Nicci, I love you, but I don`t think that`s real answer. I`m a big fan of music cares.
MusiCares is the recording academy`s organization and foundation that actually does a lot to reach out to artists, especially artists who have fallen from grace, not necessarily drug issues, but who are having hard times. To answer your question about what lesson, I think you said we can --
PINSKY: What gift did she give us? What lesson did she give us?
SINGLETON: Whitney`s gift was still the gift of voice, the gift of song, an icon. A girl who came from the church. She enriched us and she enriched the American culture like many other people before her has, but in a very unique manner. And I don`t think that her death should be the definition of what Whitney was all -- Whitney will live long after we`re gone.
PINSKY: I completely agree. Thank you very much. And by the way, I worked with musiCares forever, remember Buddy Arnold, God rest his soul, I`ve worked with him forever. And Nicci, thank you so much. Ernie, again.
All right. So, a friend of mine is joining me on the next segment. She`s also a recovering addict. You know her from "Celebrity Rehab." She`s going to stop by, and we`re going to put this all together. Stay with us.
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PINSKY: Of course, that song earned Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Whitney Houston in 1994, and we will miss that voice. Shelley Sprague joins me. She is a certified chemical dependency counselor, my resident technician on "Celebrity Rehab." She, herself, recovering cocaine, heroin addict. Shelley, you and I got to bring this home, OK?
SHELLEY SPRAGUE, RECOVERING ADDICT: Right. Well, again, it`s a very sad situation. We`re always meeting under these circumstances.
PINSKY: And we`re always meeting with prescription deaths these days.
SPRAGUE: Always prescription deaths. It`s an epidemic. We need to do something. Our country needs to do something. If we don`t do something, the body bags are piling up, and it is -- I treat people for a living every day, day in, day out. You cannot -- the percentage of prescription drug addicts has tripled -- over the last ten years.
PINSKY: It exploded.
SPRAGUE: It`s exploded.
PINSKY: Recovering peers, friends, as patients all say, there used to be meetings they could barely find somebody mentioning drugs, now that`s all you find.
SPRAGUE: That`s all it is. That`s all it is.
PINSKY: All right. Now, I want you to take people through something really quickly. We only got a few minutes here, but you, yourself were in recovery and had an emergency surgery, woke up on a morphine drip.
I want you to explain what happens to an addict`s brain when they`re on these drugs, because were you in recovery, needed this medication because you had an operation, and woke up, your recovery is still intact, but what happened?
SPRAGUE: I woke up a different person. I woke up in full blown addiction. I did not want any of my family there. I did not want the curtains opened. I did not want anything, and I watched the clock for every time I could get that next fix.
PINSKY: And yet you were a recovering person --
SPRAGUE: And I had four years of sobriety
PINSKY: And knew this was a relapse and knew you were in your disease.
SPRAGUE: And knew I was in my disease but couldn`t do anything about it. I was triggered beyond. There was nothing I could do to stop how I felt.
PINSKY: So, when the doctor gives a patient like yourself with a long history of addiction a bottle of pills, what happens to that person? What happened to Whitney Houston when she goes sees the doctors last week and gets two bottles or three bottles of God knows what?
SPRAGUE: You become fully addicted again within a very short period of time, because again, the biology is that the cells do not change, they stay the same. And once you trigger them, they`re retriggered, and it awakens everything again, in just, you know, small doses.
So, what happens is you`re thrust into active addiction, and if you aren`t aware that that`s what`s going to happen --
PINSKY: If you aren`t aware or what going to happen to you. Yes.
SPRAGUE: If you`re not aware and prepared for what`s going to happen on the other end of that, thank goodness, I was in recovery. I had people supporting me to get through that.
PINSKY: Are you as outraged as I am that she was drinking the night before she died and that doctors gave her pills? This is the saddest, saddest indictment. This is the part that everyone seems to be missing out there, which is she was drinking, using alcohol, everyone is saying she`s great.
SPRAGUE: No, you know, alcohol is minimized. It`s absolutely minimized in our culture, and it really needs to be taken seriously, and obviously, drinking and using any kind of pills, period, anything, it has to stop.
PINSKY: And it leads to --
SPRAGUE: This is what kills people.
PINSKY: Right. A reminder, addiction is fatal. It`s typically fatal and it`s certainly fatal, certainly fatal if you get involved in prescription drugs.
SPRAGUE: Prescription drugs, mixing with alcohol is absolutely deadly.
PINSKY: There you go. So, if you have addiction, it`s abstinence, abstinence, abstinence. Using alcohol, smoking pot, you`re in harm`s way. You`re dancing on your grave, celebrating that with your alcohol. Shelley, thank you. Thank you for all watching. I`ll see you next time.