Return to Transcripts main page
Inside Whitney`s Final Days
Aired February 14, 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.
As praise for Whitney echoes in the media, the Bobby Brown blame game swirls in cyberspace, but not so fast. Wait until you hear what one of Whitney Houston`s close friends says about the length of her drug history.
And what about the other Bobbi, did the child become the parent? How can the daughter avoid the mother`s outcomes? Plus, how to protect your family from the prescription pill epidemic.
Let`s get started.
Thanks for joining us tonight. We`re going inside Whitney Houston`s final days, and again, I`m trying to do my job tonight.
I try to not get quite so excited as I`ve been coming - I`ve been becoming about this thing that`s afflicting our nation that probably took this woman we love and this great performer, this mother, this wife, I mean, we have to get an understanding around this. And I`m hoping to bring us closer to that tonight.
We`re also speaking to some of the singer`s closest friends about her struggles and her death, who in Whitney`s life was helping her, who was hurting her, who was enabling, and what is next for her heartbroken teenage daughter?
First, here is the latest.
PINSKY (voice-over): A private jet, a golden hearse and a New Jersey homecoming for a diva the world will never forget. Whitney Houston`s funeral is set for Saturday. And tonight new details are emerging about her death.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said when he worked for her, they didn`t allow her to take baths.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said but I cannot protect you from yourselves.
PINSKY: A close friend she called Aunt Mary found Whitney`s body just minutes after people saw the singer alive. The grim discovery, a reminder of the perils of Hollywood.
CELINE DION, SINGER (via telephone): I`m scared of show business. I`m scared of drugs. We have to be afraid.
PINSKY: A tragic loss not just of an amazing talent, but of a mother, a daughter, and a friend.
Where do Whitney`s troubles begin and how might this devastating end have been avoided.
JENNIFER HOLLIDAY, SINGER: I hate to say this that she had started before she had - had met Bobby Brown.
PINSKY: And of course she did. I need to make something clear because people are rushing to judgment on Bobby Brown, saying he is to blame for Whitney`s death really.
I`m telling you, yes, I`m sure he didn`t help things any, but addicts tend to seek out other addicts. They tend to find people that support their way of thinking and they become co-addicts together. And I have no doubt that`s what happened with Bobby Brown.
So to blame him is a huge mistake. He didn`t help. He didn`t help, I`m agreeing to that, but to make him responsible for this outcome, giant mistake.
With me now is recording artist and Whitney`s friend, Nicci Gilbert. Nicci was also with Whitney on Thursday night, two days before she died. And host of HLN`s Jane Velez-Mitchell. Jane, thank you for being here. It`s really a pleasure having you in studio with me. And we also have public relations expert and Whitney`s long time friend, Marvet Britto.
Marvet, can you tell us about Whitney`s relationship with Bobby?
MARVET BRITTO, PUBLIC RELATIONS EXPERT, WHITNEY`S FRIEND: I wasn`t intimately involved in Whitney`s relationship with Bobby. My sister is good friends with Whitney, has been for over 20 years.
But what I can tell you is that no one person can do more for someone than they want to do for themselves, and I think they had a very loving relationship, a very - they were similar in many ways. I think from the beginning when Bobby and Whitney got together, people thought that they were so vastly different. That`s simply because people knew the public Whitney, they didn`t know the private Whitney.
So I think for anyone to pass judgment on what they think Bobby - who they think Bobby was, who they think Whitney was, you really had to be inside the intimacy of their relationship to really know the level of love and passion that really existed between them. And I believe still existed to this day.
PINSKY: Now, I`ve got a couple more updates. Thank you, Marvet. Houston`s - her funeral will be held at a church - in her childhood church in New Jersey. I think it`s the same one where she had sung as a teenager. This will be a private ceremony. Bobby Brown says that their daughter is there now in that vicinity with her family.
Jane, I know you share with me the frustration of trying to help people understand the prescription pill epidemic and the fact that just because doctors are prescribing something doesn`t mean it`s OK for an addict. How do we help people understand this?
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST, "ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL": There`s so much misinformation about this. And I speak as a recovering alcoholic with 16 years, hopefully in April, has 17 years. But I get frustrated when I hear people say she`s a former addict. Oh, she was off hard drugs. She was only drinking, she was OK.
And it`s - it`s just the wrong information. You can`t be a former addict. All we have is today. People who have 20 years of sobriety, 30 years of sobriety go out if they don`t work their program.
PINSKY: Let people understand this. It is a part of the brain - I don`t want to bore my eyes out so I`m going to say this one time. And Jane, you may be - you can help me help me get it across to people, which is that there`s a part of your brain below consciousness, below your reasoning center, below your feeling center, deeper in the sort of drive system, in the center of the brain, it`s an area called the medial forebrain bundle that sets up drives like survival and hunger and those kinds of things. That drive becomes distorted in addiction.
So all of these higher mechanisms are wonderful reasoning and our will and our volition, and our love of our families, all of these things now serve a distorted drive, which is permanently there. It`s much more active when you`re using. And then all the distortions occur, and it settles down a little bit when you maintain your sobriety every day.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. And just to put it in people terms, it`s an uncontrollable craving that takes over and it can be triggered by one drug.
PINSKY: But I think what people misunderstand is that it doesn`t - it doesn`t have to be an awareness of craving. It can be just - here is what my drug addicts always say. So it`s like, yes, I haven`t used cocaine in a long time, but, God, I would like to see Jill. I would like to see Jane.
Well, who`s Jane? Well, Jane is somebody I used to do drugs with. And we used to buy - well, I just got to see Jane. And I`ll be the doctor saying, you know, don`t see Jane. Don`t go see Jane.
PINSKY: Because that`s your brain going I want to do drugs. You just don`t know that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: People, places and things.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s why - yes, it`s cunning, baffling, powerful. And people, places and things trigger. That`s why when you`re in early recovery, don`t go to a bar. I don`t hang out in bars. If I have to go out -
PINSKY: But you haven`t really recovered, your 16 years sober, you know you can`t do that. We have poor Whitney who had been so - not even sober. She had been treated just last May.
NICCI GILBERT, WAS WITH WHITNEY TWO DAYS BEFORE SHE DIED: My question is - my question is, how long has this been going on? Now, all of a sudden, like I said before, everyone`s all, oh, Whitney, what was she drinking or what was she doing and where was she, who was the person in her profession who said Whitney, 15 years ago, or when that incident happened when she was stopped at the airport, who - where was this conversation then?
PINSKY: Why didn`t -
GILBERT: That`s what I want to know. Why didn`t we start evaluating and wondering who the doctors were and who was giving her prescriptions? Where did that - when did that start happening (ph)?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But she went to rehab at least three times, most recently less than a year ago.
GILBERT: It doesn`t matter. She has to keep going to rehab. But what I`m saying is -
GILBERT: -- there is a problem somewhere, and that problem didn`t start on Thursday night. Unfortunately it led to that.
PINSKY: Nicci, I want to tell you. I`m going to give you a symptom of the problem right now.
PINSKY: OK. And I hope we can be able to pull up this full screen that I`ve got. This is a friend of Whitney, talking about her drug use saying - put this up here at the full screen. I want to read this right off the screen.
That she had been, quote, "clean from hard drugs for three years and had not used cocaine or marijuana, therefore she was fine."
You understand? So that`s what she was surrounded by, Nicci. That`s - I`m just - I`m just reading a symptom of what led to her death.
GILBERT: But she was surrounded - she was surrounded by quite a few people, and not just friends, record executives, doctors, you can`t blame her mother for her condition -
GILBERT: -- you can`t blame her child, you can`t blame Bobby Brown for her condition.
At the end of the day, the stresses, let`s talk about what got her there. Let`s talk about that. Can we discuss that? We`re talking about the drugs. We`re talking about the alcohol. Let`s talk about what got her to the point where she felt like she needed that to cope.
PINSKY: Well, you want to know what usually often it is, is some kind of childhood trauma. So we really haven`t discussed that at all on this show or any show. I don`t know. I`ve never heard about her dad or what he was like or - who knows? So there may be a big -
GILBERT: What I understand her dad was an absolutely amazing guy. And talking about her dad, let`s go there. She lost her father who she was very, very close to.
PINSKY: Maybe that was the trauma.
GILBERT: She was very close to him.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But I have to say this. Addicts - and I`m speaking as a recovering alcoholic, we drink when we`re happy, we drink when we`re sad. We use when we`re going to celebrate, we use when we`re feeling depressed. Any excuse, it`s sunny out, we drink to celebrate. It`s raining, we drink because we`re not happy with the rain. It doesn`t matter and it can be multi-determined (ph).
GILBERT: You should - you should help to alleviate the pressure and the influence that takes a person to that point. That would be the job of the people who say, hey, get on a plane, you know, come - Chaka Khan made this point that Whitney Houston was here a full week, longer, you know, than she would have recommended her be, you know, partying and having a good time.
Who was the person that was there that said, Whitney, you`ve been sober for three years. Let`s make sure x, y and z doesn`t happen. I`ve heard the reference, you know, to Kelly Price and myself and all of her friends who were at the party. I personally did not toast champagne with her, but you said it yourself, Dr. Drew, it`s a disease.
PINSKY: Let me ask something, why didn`t you pull her aside and say, honey, let`s get you back into treatment or let`s get you to a meeting or just call your sponsor.
GILBERT: Because I don`t feel - I personally, honestly don`t feel that it is my place in the middle of an event -
PINSKY: To do that.
GILBERT: -- to pull Whitney Houston to the side -
PINSKY: OK. Fair enough.
GILBERT: -- in the presence of her child and say.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Not only that -
PINSKY: Fair enough.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve had personal experience when I think, oh, let`s say a sober buddy has slipped and they get extremely angry at you -
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- (INAUDIBLE), they deny it, and they basically blame you for messing with them.
GILBERT: And cut you off.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And cut you off. And say they don`t want to be around you anymore.
PINSKY: But the cutting of is what you need to be willing to risk!
GILBERT: But you don`t cut - but you don`t -
PINSKY: You need to be willing to risk it to save that person`s life. And here`s what you do. Here`s what I do is - when I`m - I know they`re going - you`re going to evoke righteous indignation. And here`s what you`ll do. You laugh, you go, dude, come on, Whitney, I`m just trying -
GILBERT: It`s because I love you.
PINSKY: -- I care about you. I`m trying to help you.
GILBERT: But let me ask you this question. Why didn`t one of those record executives say the exact same thing that you`re asking the friends to say? If you want to go out there and sing on this show, if you want to go and be part of this, if you want your contract to remain intact, then you cannot do this. Bottom line. Hello.
PINSKY: That`s what I`m saying. I say hear, hear.
GILBERT: And how about somebody else -
VELEZ-MITCHELL: One step further, drug testing just like they do for athletes.
PINSKY: Well - but it`s - but they`re independent contractors, they`re not employees.
So we`ve got to take a break.
What is up next for Bobby`s teenage - for the teenage daughter, Bobbi Kristina, Whitney and Bobby`s daughter? The 18-year-old, you can just imagine she`s devastated, having extreme anxiety over mom`s death. Who will take care of her and how can those around her help? Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBI KRISTINA, WHITNEY HOUSTON AND BOBBY BROWN`S DAUGHTER: (SINGING ADELE`S "SOMEONE LIKE YOU")
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Poor thing. That`s of course a YouTube video of Whitney`s 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina singing Adele`s "Someone Like You."
She is an aspiring singer. And you can just only imagine what she`s going through. And she, too, is a victim. She, too, is a victim of the pill epidemic, frankly.
Now, TMZ is reporting that she was rushed to the hospital in the wake of her mom`s death for what has been called anxiety, stress and whatnot.
Guys, apparently they`ve also reported that a few years ago she was hospitalized for suicidality, maybe want to hurt herself. That`s one of the only reasons a young person would get hospitalized or stay in a psychiatric hospital. You don`t really get hospitalized for anxiety and stress unless you`re talking about hurting yourself.
So please keep an eye on that and prayers for her. I`m worried about her.
Now, I think everyone is aware that both her parents have a drug history, and that - you know, who now is going to be there for this child? And remember this. Now, whether one or both parents have this thing we call addiction, generally speaking it`s about 50 percent probability that the child inherits it. So just because both parents have it doesn`t increase the risk, but it does make it more difficult to have a family support.
My guest now, Whitney`s close friend, recording artist Nicci Gilbert, she`s back with us. Along with Jane Velez-Mitchell, HLN`s own, and we are joined by Jerry Wonda who produced Whitney`s record "My Love Is Your Love (sic)." She knew Whitney and the family very, very well.
Jerry, I imagine you have real concerns for their daughter. Can you tell me how what`s going on now? Do you know where she is? How she`s doing?
JERRY WONDA, PRODUCED WHITNEY`S RECORD "MY LOVE IS YOUR LOVE": Right now, I don`t really know.
But I know when we were working, you know, when she was five when I did the record with Whitney, the most important thing for her was her daughter, and I was the first one - me and Wyclef were the first one that put her on Bobbi Kristina on a song, the "sing, Mommy" and it was like - the most important was to make sure the vocals was Bobbi Kristina`s vocals was louder than her. So that`s how much I know she loved - you know, she lover her daughter.
And you know, that`s really - when I got the new, I was really sad, you know, to know that this girl going to be without her partner in crime, because that`s what they are, they were.
PINSKY: "L.A. Times" blog reports - that we`re trying to understand this relationship between Bobbi Kristina and her mom that it`s actually Bobbi Kristina who tended to mother Whitney. Apparently one of the last nights of her life, Bobbi Kristina was trying to get the mom from stopping - not doing hand stands in front of the press. Witnesses describe Whitney`s behavior as childlike.
Jane, I would sort of describe it as - probably - not using - I mean that`s using behavior, right?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, of course it is. And quite often with the addict, the child becomes the parent.
PINSKY: Right. It`s called the parentalization of the child. And I think people are worried that Bobbi Kristina might also get this gene that we call addictive gene. It doesn`t have to be that. I mean it can be damaging enough just being the child of an alcoholic.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it`s environmental factors. So my father was an alcoholic, a high functioning one who`s an advertising executive, but nonetheless, so I grew up, I didn`t know that people didn`t drink five martinis a night because that`s what I saw.
So when that`s your normal when you`re growing up, you are obviously at a disposition to inherit that disease.
So it`s - this is what upsets me is that people get angry at us for having this conversation and they think it`s disrespectful, and I don`t think it is disrespectful at all.
GILBERT: It`s not disrespectful, but at the same time I think that what happens is there`s a stigma. And people start to believe that every child of an alcoholic or every child -
PINSKY: Nicci, you - Nicci you say something that`s so intense and provocative. Let`s focus on that for a second. You`re saying the stigma of having a parent with something that we find matter of fact, the addictive pathology stigmatizes the child?
GILBERT: Absolutely. Because I grew up in Detroit, and I have seen a whole lot of people who have parents that are addicted to crack cocaine. In fact, you know, I have very close family members who have children and they - both parents were addicted to crack cocaine, and those children are excelling, they`re graduating. Some of them decide I never want to touch it.
PINSKY: Well, some of them become -
GILBERT: And I think that the key thing that you said in the beginning was that Bobbi Kristina was taking care of her mother.
GILBERT: She realized that her mother had a problem.
PINSKY: But you understand something, that for a child to become parentalized is traumatic for a child and they often become perfectionistic. They become hyperachievers sometimes because they subjugate all their own feelings, they push them aside because they learn that my feelings don`t matter. What matters those feelings of mom, make sure she doesn`t keep using. So they co-dependently focus.
On the other, I kind of see that going on.
GILBERT: So here we go with this, how do we prevent what happened to Whitney Houston from happening to anybody else, namely her child? How do we have those conversations rather than -
PINSKY: One provocative question. You mentioned crack and I don`t see this as a cocaine or a crack story at all.
GILBERT: Oh, no, no, no, no, no.
PINSKY: But listen to me. Listen to me. Is there - is there a racial issue running through this somewhere - no, listen - where African- Americans don`t like talking about this issue or accepting -
GILBERT: I think we`re past that whole thing. At the end of the day, you know, crack is what meth is to white people.
PINSKY: It`s not - this is not a crack story. This is not a crack story. It`s a pill story.
GILBERT: I understand. I understand. So if it`s not, the reference I was making to crack cocaine was not that Whitney Houston, that was the situation with her. What I`m saying is that children who are exposed to parents who are either alcoholics or addicted to any kind of drugs are not automatically - you don`t have the scarlet letter, I`m going to be this way because my mother was and my father was.
PINSKY: I agree. I agree with you.
GILBERT: That was the point in my conversation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: To avoid it is to open up and talk about it.
PINSKY: And stop - stop - we`re going to continue this - continue this conversation after the break. We`re going to keep going with this. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY BROWN, SINGER: I think the stress of being here puts us all on edge, and sometimes you just need to wind down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bobby brown is ripped. Last night at the fire, you know what I learned? That Bobby has been sober for three years. That`s amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess alcohol doesn`t count being sober.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Alcohol doesn`t count, guys? That is not sober. And that was from VH-1 "Celebrity Fit Club," you saw Bobby Brown drinking while talking about recovery. I mean, nothing is further from the truth.
Bobby, message for you, dude. Please, get in a program, get a sponsor, follow the direction, do the steps. Abstinence, abstinence, abstinence. Your daughter needs her daddy. Please, please. I`ll be happy to refer you to a million good programs. Jane can help you out, take you to meeting in fact.
I`m back with my guests, Whitney`s friend, recording artist Nicci Gilbert; music producer Jerry Wonda is still with me, and HLN`s Jane Velez- Mitchell also here.
So we`re talking about, you know, that you were saying something very powerful during the break. Say that again about the people would just get with it. You were very angry about embracing this young lady.
GILBERT: Yes. If all these, you know, friends and influential people in this industry, and moguls and record executives and all the people with the money and the power and the influence will wrap their arms around Bobbi Kristina and Bobby Brown, and embrace them and work together with them so that it stops with Whitney Houston, whatever it was.
We don`t know what it was, but we know it`s not good. And whatever it was, if they`ll just stop, because she could do very well. Now that there`s a certain pressure -
PINSKY: Let me be clear with this. I think she really could. She is not taking care of her mom anymore. She can take care of herself.
GILBERT: You know, it will take a minute. You know what I mean? She lost her mother, so it`s going to take a minute, but she has the potential to be absolutely - my prayer is that Bobbi Kristina becomes an advocate, and she speaks up and she speaks out. And I know that she has the strength and ability to do that.
PINSKY: And Jane as someone who is the child of an alcoholic, you can see to it that - I mean, here you are, a living example of flourishing in spite of that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. I only say if I could only have gone to one meeting with my dad, because he never saw me sober and I never saw him sober, so our relationship was very stilted and superficial. Although I loved him and he was a great guy and we did great things like debate politics together.
But, you know, the bottom line is you can save your face and you can save your ass. I hate to be vulgar. But this is part of the whole problem with this conversation is that people accuse you of being rude or being disrespectful. It would be disrespectful of us not to look at the reality so that, God willing, Whitney Houston -
GILBERT: -- reality that so more people don`t die.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- doesn`t die in vain.
GILBERT: Exactly. Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, (INAUDIBLE), we`re losing too many artists because people are looking away because it`s cool and it`s rock star and it is not.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we don`t have the cause yet. We wouldn`t know the toxicology tests for weeks.
But look at Corey Haim. He was supposed to be in recovery and he only had trace elements of numerous drugs. Sometimes the body gives out. It doesn`t necessarily take an OD.
PINSKY: No. It doesn`t take a lot to suppress your respiration, you go quietly to sleep and just stop breathing. It happens with just a few pills, if it`s the right combination.
My patients with addiction die of prescription drug death every day. It exceeds - the death from prescription medication exceeds cocaine and heroin deaths combined. It exceeds in young populations, exceeds car accidents. It is pandemic. It has to be looked at. And, you know, how do we get that message across, I don`t know.
Next, we`re going to extend our "On Call" segment. By the way, thank you guys. Thank you, Jerry. Thank you, Jane. Thank you, Nicci. I appreciate it.
I`m going to do an extended "On Call" segment. You`ll hear from as many of you as possible. We`re going to do a whole segment around your questions and how to make sense of all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Coming up, prescription pill abuse is one of the fastest growing medical problems in the United States. Most medical professionals receive minimal training about addiction. As a result, doctors may be prescribing medication without fully understanding the potential devastating effects.
What can we do now to put the brakes on this run away train that is killing tens of thousands each year?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): And welcome back now. Of course, the most important people on the show are my viewers, and for the past 24 hours, we have been inundated here with e-mails, Facebooks and questions and your calls about this addiction thing. This has really triggered something in people. So, I want to spend a few minutes here, talking about this.
Now, at this very minute, someone we all know, love or work with, every one of you, is struggling, knows someone struggling with this condition. Now, we are extending this on-call segment, as I said, to inform as many of you as possible, really get into this a little bit. So, let`s go to the phones. We`re going to start off with Deanna. She`s in Indiana. Deanna, go ahead.
DEANNA, Indiana: Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Deanna.
DEANNA: My son is 18 years old and is currently in rehab for the third time in a year and a half. I`m completely distraught and afraid for advice.
DEANNA: He wants to be clean, but he just can`t seem to stay that way.
PINSKY: Deanna, what`s his drug of choice?
PINSKY: Yes. Opiates are the most difficult. Just because you take them by mouth and just because they`re prescribed by a doctor doesn`t mean they`re any less addictive than heroin, which is another opiate. These are all the pain-killer class, but heroin addiction and Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet, same thing.
It`s really the same thing. It has a very high recidivism. And Deanna, here`s the reality, if somebody gets strung out on opiates, OK, which, unfortunately your son has been, and by the way, 18 and under, it`s very, very difficult to treat them. It`s very difficult. The best you can do is sort of keep them structured and try to get them off the drugs until they get to the point where they`re mature enough to be able to manage the recovery process.
But your son should be just right about there right now. And here`s the deal, with opiates, in my opinion, abstinence is the goal. If you, my dear, had opiate addiction, if anyone else out there had it, if I had it, my son had it, abstinence would be the goal. There`s this thing now called harm reduction where they put people on like methadone, things like that.
It can be life-saving for people that have terminal opiate addiction, but for an otherwise, healthy person with lots of resources who gets that opiate addiction, it makes them chronically ill to be on opiates, chronically with (INAUDIBLE) whatever it is.
So, the goal should be abstinence. And that goal takes a lot of time, Deanna. It takes like about six to 12 months. So, he has to really go somewhere for an extended period of time. What`s the longest period of time he was in treatment?
DEANNA: Nine months. And he relapsed a month after that.
PINSKY: All right. So, here`s the deal. So, he`s made a good attempt to treatment. He needs to go back again. You just got to keep going back. You know, on "Celebrity Rehab," the guy, Bob Forrest, I work with, the guy with the glasses and the hair, he had 24 treatments before he had sustained sobriety.
And his thing was opiates, too. And so, it takes what it takes. And in the meantime, this is something I`m going to be saying all night long here, is that you, my dear, you, my dear, must get into the solution, too, or you`re part of the problem. You must go to Al Anon program or 12-step program for co-dependency, OK? Can you do that?
DEANNA: Yes, I can.
PINSKY: OK. All right. Good luck. Let`s try to stay in touch with this by e-mail. We`ll keep (INAUDIBLE). You all right?
DEANNA: Thank you very much.
PINSKY: OK. Another call. We got Gina in New York. Gina, go ahead.
GINA, NEW YORK: Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Gina.
GINA: I`m sitting here watching your show about Whitney Houston.
GINA: I sit here and wonder what`s going to take the life of my son. He`s also a victim of prescription drugs, getting them from what I call legal drug dealers that call themselves doctors.
GINA: They should be ashamed of themselves for causing the pain of mothers and parents.
PINSKY: My god.
GINA: I pray every day, and I go to Al Anon. How can we help our loved ones?
PINSKY: Gina, here`s the deal, my dear -- oh, Gina, you`re just breaking my heart, honey. You know how desperate this is. You got it. You`re doing the work. You`re being a part of the solution. Here is what I suggest you do. First of all, use whatever leverage you can to get your son into a program and sober.
And then, you call every doctor and every pharmacy that has been prescribing to him, and you put them on notice that this is a drug addict who is in treatment, and if any of them, if any of them, steps out of the line and gives your son a deadly substance, you will file malpractice claim. You put it in writing and you send them a letter, and you put that on the chart.
And then, you try to get whatever the team is that`s involving treating your son to do the same, to make the same phone call. It`s the only thing that gets through to people, unless, you make very extreme actions, because they don`t understand it. And Gina, I am -- I feel like I`ve got spear in my stomach. I hear this story so often.
And, after all, Gina, what started this whole conversation tonight, but we have a dead person. We have Whitney Houston dead. I just hope your son doesn`t stack up in that body pile. You have the potential for it to be OK. I`ve seen miracles in recovery. And, my hope is you get him there as well. I mean, your participation in codependency recovery will be a critical piece on that.
I`m going to a Facebook question, if you don`t mind, hold on a second. Somebody was taking issue with this thing, what I was saying. Here, this is e-mail from Karen. I want to get this e-mail up here, if you don`t mind. Karen, it says, "Dr. Drew says drug addicts love drugs more than anything else in their lives. I feel this statement is totally incorrect and insult to those who suffer from addiction. Just because it`s hard to put loved ones first, by no means, do we love them any less?"
Hold on a second. Read that statement, "because we can`t put love one`s first, because we love somebody else more doesn`t mean we love them any less." Yes, you love your loved ones a lot. I get that. But this is the thing. I`ll keep reading her statement, which is "I`m a recovering addict. I never ever did I love my fix more than my family. I feel that sort of comment will cause family members to back off from helping a loved one who is unable to -- "
I`m not going to read more. Here`s the deal. Listen, we get the message. And here`s the fact, you, though, you`re the normals (ph) in your family do not understand what you`re contending with. So, one of the ways to get through to them is to help them understand that there`s a part of your brain that has an appetite and drive that`s akin to loving something more than anything else in your life.
You love it more than you love the drugs. In fact, biologically what happens is you`re loving that part of your brain. That`s nurturing of love is going off more powerfully for drugs and alcohol, and everything else recedes. And that`s how the people that love you can understand. It`s hard for them to come to terms with that, but they`ve got to understand that and let go and let you manage your condition while they focus on their issues.
I`m going to the phone. Ted is on the line in Tennessee. Ted, come on, what have you got?
TED, TENNESSEE: Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hey, Ted.
TED: Explain the effects of alcohol and addictive person. I feel like it should be put in terms that alcohol is a gateway drug that is to whatever the addictive person --
PINSKY: It is.
TED: -- and that person, addictive person cannot close it on their own. Brain starts working, and it seeks out the drug of choice. It opens the door. It gets the addictive person cannot close, after awhile, brings over (ph), the drug of choice, that`s what it wants.
PINSKY: OK. Yes, yes. But Ted, you`re right on about all this stuff. I`ll give you that. But let me just say that alcohol is one of the more common gateway drugs. This whole idea that there are good drugs and bad drugs to me is just bizarre. Your drug of choice, whatever it is, and for you it`s bad. But if you have cancer and you need an opiate, that`s a good drug because it`s going to minimize suffering, which is extremely important.
Alcohol is one of the gateway drugs. Cigarettes, gateway drug. You think about it? Alcohol and cigarettes, in terms of drugs in our culture, massively impactful, hugely an issue for people of addiction. And I agree with you. More often than not, it is the thing that really gets the addictive process going for young people. It isn`t necessarily the primary drug because more addictive drugs get involved along the way and those take over.
Let`s see. I`m going to one more. Let`s go to Regina, finally, e- mail. She says, "Addiction runs in my family, both sides. When you have a loved one suffering from addiction, it hurts everyone." I agree with you. They absolutely cannot just have one drink or one pill. Thank you for what you do in helping people with addiction and their loved ones such as myself to cope with this."
I have compassion for this, because I see this thing as the problem of our time, ladies and gentlemen. I really do see it as the issue. And I want to thanks, I think Regina who said that, because you know, you know how it devastates great people, wonderful people. People with this condition are rich, lovely, wonderful people.
This conversation tonight is because we`ve had someone taken from us who is a great loss, not just to -- obviously I`m deeply affected by this disease. It affects many of us, and it`s time we come to terms with it. And the pills are the latest chapter in this story, and it`s the one that is killing.
So, I hope people take home some great understanding from this conversation tonight. Thanks to those of you who called and wrote. Keep it coming.
Next, get this, 26,000 people die every year from drug overdoses, and prescription pills are responsible for the majority of those deaths.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITNEY HOUSTON, SINGER: You put your marijuana, you lace it, you roll it up, and you smoke it and your weed. It`s just another form. It`s like -- almost like heroin and cocaine speed bawling, but you level it off with marijuana, OK?
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: So, your drug of choice was weed combined with cocaine?
HOUSTON: Rock cocaine.
WINFREY: Rock cocaine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That`s Oprah`s 2009 interview with Whitney Houston, gave us a revealing look into the pop star`s long, long history with drugs. But when Houston was found dead this weekend, it was in all probability, now, again, we have not independently confirmed this yet, but there were prescription bottles found, so I think we can say it was probably prescriptions of the culprits here.
Even if they weren`t find out not, this is an important conversation to have. It was not heroin, it`s not cocaine, it was not an illicit drug, it was something prescribed by a doctor that may have done the deed here.
Joining me to discuss this, Loni Coombs, former Los Angeles prosecutor and Danette Meyers, deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County. Danette, seven people -- I think I was in my excitement about this topic. I think I was heading towards hyperbolic excess last night when I said a thousand people died today, same day as Whitney Houston.
I`m sure hundreds die the same day as Whitney Houston from pharmaceutical. I will give you a specific piece of data. Seven people die in Florida each day of prescription drug overdoses. How do we prevent California from becoming Florida?
DANETTE MEYERS, DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY LOS ANGELES COUNTY: One of the things that I think, Dr. Drew, California needs to do is they need to mandate every doctor, every pharmacist, every urgent care facility and emergency care facility. They need to mandate that they register with the Department of Justice, the California Department of Justice and involve themselves in the present program, which is the prescription drug monitoring program.
That program would require licensed professionals who disperse drugs to input into the system who the drugs they`re dispersing, who does drugs go from (ph).
PINSKY: Let me ask this. Is it something they could be part of the electronic medical record? Will automatically, every time you write an opiate, go off? Is there something more cumbersome?
MEYERS: It already exists now. Today, in California, when a doctor does write a prescription, that information goes into a database called Cures. So, they have the information already. But if someone comes into the doctor`s office who the doctor doesn`t know, and they say, you know, doctor, I`m feeling very anxious. I need some Xanax.
Many doctors will go ahead and prescribe the Xanax without looking at the system to see whether or not that person has gone into another doctor`s office the day before and obtained a prescription for Xanax.
PINSKY: I`m sighing because here is Whitney Houston with a very public struggle with drugs, treated for addiction in May, comes and complains of anxiety. A database doesn`t help that story. Even if that doctor gives her 20 Xanax, he`s activated her disease. Even if she hasn`t seen any other doctors.
MEYERS: Well, it does help if the doctor gives her a prescription and the pharmacist. She goes to the pharmacist, and the pharmacists are saying, you know what, let me look into the system, because what it does is, it allows the pharmacist to deny her that prescription, the filling of that prescription. And that`s what it will do. So, it`s not an immediate fix, but it will help the situation.
PINSKY: It helps. I agree, it helps.
LONI COOMBS, FORMER LOS ANGELES PROSECUTOR: And honestly, it is time for criminal penalties. You know, people say, oh, civil penalties are enough, but we`ve had civil remedies (ph) all these years and look where we are. We`re in this pandemic. People are dying right and left. And until there is a really strong stance, some type of criminal penalty --
PINSKY: Loni, I thought we had that with Conrad Murray. I thought the message was sent. Message received. It made me sad, in fact, that somebody had to be jailed because of prescribing habits. And yet, here we are, here we are, two months later.
COOMBS: That`s exactly. Go back further, go to Heath Ledger, go back to Anna Nicole Smith, there was prosecution in that case, but we have to change the thinking in the medical profession. Essentially, a lot of doctors still think, hey, I`m not law enforcement, I`m just a doctor. If a patient comes in and says I`m in pain, I believe them. And I`m not going to question them. I`m going to give them something to make it better.
PINSKY: You should know that there are mandates in physicians that, in some states, border on criminal that if you don`t treat pain, you`re in big, serious trouble. So, how do we balance this where it`s patient`s right to get whatever pain meds they need --
COOMBS: No. I think it`s very naive and actually irresponsible at this point for doctors to just say I`m just going to hand you a pill. They know as well as the rest of society knows this is a pandemic. You`re killing your patients whether you mean to or not. You need to start doing that further extensive history and follow up on the records that are out there.
PINSKY: I agree with you. Now, during Clive Davis` pre-Grammy party, just hours after Whitney Houston was discovered in the bathtub gone, singing legend, Tony Bennett, reflected on her death with a controversial comment. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BENNETT, SINGER: First, it was Michael Jackson. Then, it was Amy Winehouse, and now, the magnificent, Whitney Houston. I`d like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs so they`ll have to get it through a doctor, not from some gangsters that sell it under the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: I`m going to let each of you respond with that. Loni, you first.
COOMBS: Well, first of all, he`s assuming that it might have been illegal drugs. We don`t know that. But here`s my problem with legalizing other drugs. It`s a problem that we face right now with the prescription drugs. For some reason, an aura goes over those drugs that they`re OK if they`re legal. That they`re safe. They are not safe. Like you`ve pointed out before, all drugs are dangerous. All drugs are deadly.
PINSKY: All drugs are, whether you`re an addict or not. But if you`re an addict, you`re really in harm`s way when you put a pill in your mouth. Danette.
MEYERS: I think the problem is, we don`t have enough rehabilitation facilities. Providing better access to drugs is not going to help the situation. Legalizing drugs, that`s not going to help it. What you got to do is we`ve got to spend the money, Dr. Drew, in California, and we`ve got to have more rehabilitation facilities.
PINSKY: Danette, honest to God -- oh, my goodness. But Danette, you cannot imagine the frustration. I`ve worked in 20 years in rehabilitation. And you cannot imagine how restrictive resources are with getting the patients what you need. Patients that needed six months of treatment, I was mandated by their insurance carriers to give three to five days, and then send them out.
PINSKY: If there`s nobody to advocate on behalf of addicts, in spite of it being a massive public health problem.
MEYERS: We, as society, are going to have to get to the point where we put our funds where they are much needed. This is an area where it`s much needed. It`s a public safety problem. You have an addict --
PINSKY: A crime, too.
MEYERS: It truly is. You have an addict who gets in the car, who`s under the influence, we`re all subject to being part of -- to be victimized --
PINSKY: People don`t understand that DUIs these days and not just alcohol, it`s also the same pills.
MEYERS: And it`s been like that forever. It`s very difficult to prosecute when it`s just drugs.
PINSKY: You doing what your doctor prescribed? Oh, yes. Two Oxycontin four times a day and my Klonopin, and that`s all I was taking. You can`t drive a car like that.
COOMBS: Right. And a lot of people end up in the prison, and it costs so much money to keep these people in prison. Just no good to solve the problem long-term when what they need is help, rehabilitation.
MEYERS: I had a case, Dr. Drew --
PINSKY: I have 30 seconds.
MEYERS: Several years ago where an individual was addicted to Klonopin. She had alcohol in her system and killed a man. She`s doing 15 to life right now in state prison as a result of what she did. That could have been avoided.
MEYERS: She had three prior DUIs and some doctor was prescribing her medication.
PINSKY: Oh, you guys, I`m actually going to -- I think I`m going to cry tonight. This is -- I feel so helpless because I`ve been advocating this for 20 years, and here we are now.
COOMBS: But it just means we have to keep talking that much louder.
PINSKY: OK. All right. Thank you. Loni, Danette, thank you so much. They`re going to be back with me after the break.
So, how do you toughen these laws in your state? We`re going to give you that important information when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY HAMILTON, PRINCIPAL OF WHITNEY HOUSTON ACADEMY OF PERFORMING ARTS: Tears come to my eyes, you know, just thinking about it. But, I try not to become too emotional. She`s a beautiful person, beautiful singer, and we all loved her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you. I love you and I love you and rest in peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: How can you not be emotional about this? When I see the footage of her in the 1980s and 1990s, it`s a piece of each of us that`s gone. Pop icon, Whitney Houston, died on Saturday. The Los Angeles County coroner has confirmed prescription pill bottles were discovered in her room.
She had history of addiction. She was drinking the night before. (INAUDIBLE) California is working to pass legislation to, perhaps, curtail the state`s growing prescription problem. I recently talked to Florida`s attorney general. This is very interesting about her efforts. Florida has got a massive problem, and she has turned that battleship around a little bit by successfully passing some legislation in her state. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAM BONDI, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: What these guys are are drug dealers wearing white coats. We have tough penalties for these doctors with the board of medicine going after them pulling their licenses, which believe it or not, wasn`t in place prior to this. We have enhanced criminal penalties, and we also have a prescription drug monitoring program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: There it is, Danette. Florida is turning it around. Is that what we need to do here in California?
MEYERS: Exactly what we need to do, Dr. Drew. We have that same monitoring program here in California, but we do need, certainly, criminal penalties as a result of what`s been going on. It`s at epidemic proportions in California. And that`s the only thing we can do. I would submit people need to contact their state senators, their assembly people here --
PINSKY: In whatever you`re state in.
MEYERS: Whatever state you`re in. And then, on the federal side, contact your Congress person and your center, and how them do something. It can`t be one person. It has to be everyone doing it, because that`s when they start listening. When their telephones are ringing off the hook all day long.
Such like when the budget wasn`t being passed in the federal level, and everyone was calling their Congress person. That`s what has to happen, because we`re in epidemic proportions now. People are dying. Not just people who are in the movie business, but people, regular people like you and I, who work, you know, from nine to five.
MEYERS: We`ve got a huge, huge problem. And again, it comes down to that public safety issue.
PINSKY: Hollywood is just reflecting what`s going on in Main Street, and you know, they were else in Los Angeles. Loni.
COOMBS: Well, California can also do what Florida did and that established a strike force between the governor and the attorney general. They are specifically focusing on prosecuting these doctors and these clinics for violating --
PINSKY: And let me tell you, they had the special problem in Florida of the pill mills, you know, the pain mills, but we have a special problem in California where physicians get a little gratified by taking care of important people. I think they get starts or something. Celebrities are no different than anybody else, and they have to get the standard of care like everyone else.
No special care. Special care is substandard care. I can`t say that enough. But if you`re a celebrity, if you`re a special person or authority, just get the standard care. Whatever -- where they pick a good doctor, allow him or her to do their job and give you the standard that everybody gets, because that`s the best care. Agreed?
COOMBS: Doctors first. Don`t be the, you know, -- hang your honors (ph) for the limelight. You`ve got to be the doctor first.
PINSKY: It`s just another person.
MEYERS: And doctors and pharmacists are subject to losing their licenses, that will catch their attention.
PINSKY: We have one in the jail now for Michael Jackson, and that didn`t get any -- and yet, still prescribing last week to Whitney Houston, a drug addict, benzodiazepines, impossible. Thank you Danette. Thank you, Loni. Thank you all for joining me. This is something that I hope I`m helping you get around (ph) because it is so important.
It is something that`s affecting every Main Street and every town in this country. And, it`s a public health crisis. Please, get something out of this. I hope I help you. Thank you for watching. I`ll see you next time.