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Funeral for Whitney Houston Will Be Held in New Jersey Tomorrow

Aired February 17, 2012 - 21:00   ET


DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go. Swan song for a sweet voice. Whitney`s funeral is tomorrow, but the fight is onto end prescription abuse. One lawmaker gains ground in Florida. Another follows suit in California and both join me tonight.

And L.A. schools sex abuse scandal, the father of an alleged victim speaks out.

And later, if you struggle with weight gain, Oprah`s fitness guru says it is about your childhood. Not just yours but your kids as well. Let`s get started.

Welcome. Thanks for joining us tonight. We have an interesting, diverse program this evening. But we are starting with the investigation into Whitney Houston`s death. Family and friends are preparing to lay her to rest tomorrow in New Jersey. Take a look at this.


PINSKY (voice-over): Flags fly at half staff in the garden state as family members attend a private viewing of Whitney Houston`s body one day before her funeral. The star studded, somber service will pay tribute with performances by the likes of Alicia Keyes and Stevie Wonder. Movie novel, Tyler Perry and actor, Kevin Costner will be there.

And as police in L.A. ramp up the investigation, support now for new laws to stem prescription pill abuse. It isn`t clear yet that prescription drugs took Whitney from us, but the fact she was tormented by addiction is clear. Reports continue to surface that prescription bottles were found in the hotel room. How many were there and what exactly was in them, finding that out is key to honoring this American icon.


PINSKY: And Whitney Houston spoke about Michael Jackson`s problem with prescription medication and pills during an interview with Oprah in 2009. It is rather chilling. Just take a look.


WHITNEY HOUSTON, SINGER, ACTRESS: He was on painkillers at one time. I didn`t know how far and how deep it was. I just remember doing the anniversary special, 30th anniversary, and I remember looking at Michael. I remember looking at myself.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: That`s when you were so bone thin, you were frail.

HOUSTON: I was, yes, I was getting scared.

WINFREY: Looking at him.

HOUSTON: Yes. And then I could see, looking at myself, going I don`t want it to be like this, this can`t happen, not both of us with Mike.


PINSKY: And that I need you to understand is what`s so common with prescription medication, both the opiate analgesic pain medication and with the benzodiazepine, anti-anxiety medication, sleeping pills, these people when they are in it don`t realize they are in it. They don`t see that they are destroying. They don`t see that they`re not functioning normally. They lose that insight.

Now, we know the sources claim at least one of the prescription pill bottles discovered in Whitney Houston`s hotel room contained the anti- anxiety medication, xanax. And we are also hearing lorazepam and valium. And I am saying if you have history of addiction or someone you love does and they are given a prescription for xanax or clonopin, you people should not be on this. I mean, there may be some extreme reason they take it for the short term basis. But when they take it, they`re in harm`s way, the disease will activate.

Remember this. Last year, doctors of United States wrote 44 million prescriptions for xanax alone. I mean, it`s -- and listen, I`m not saying the medication is bad. It is an outstanding medication properly used.

But for people with a history of addiction, for young people that are experimenting, drinking and using xanax, this is a potentially lethal product.

Joining me to discuss this, two guests who are leading the fight against our pill epidemic. Pam Bondi, she is Florida`s attorney general, and she successfully passed legislation in her state to combat this problem. Representative Mary Bono Mack is here, congresswoman from California. And your mission is really very personal as well. Can you tell us why?

REP. MARY BONO MACK (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, I`ve experienced addiction in my family, almost my entire life. You know, I`ve had alcoholism and addiction around me, so I`ve been through it. But most recently, I had high school age children, watched not only them go through it but their friends go through it. And you can`t help but realize this truly is an epidemic in America.

So as a mother, when you see it firsthand and see people suffering with the terrible addictions, you just really realize you have to stand up and fight against it. It is time our country wake up and recognize this is a very fast growing epidemic, and it is going to take way too many lives. As you know, prescription drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental death in America.

PINSKY: They are for young people especially, and I keep seeing this one bit of data, 2500, 12 to 15-year-olds I think the data is, will abuse a prescription drug illicitly for the first time today and each in every day.

Mary, what do we do about this? I - you know, I know Pam is there on the screen next to me had great success closing down pill mills, but Whitney`s death has reminded us she wasn`t doctor shopping, she was just getting it as prescribed, and somebody prescribed it and didn`t understand what it can do for an addict. What do we do with that, Mary?

MACK: Well, that`s a great question, and it is one of the many questions we do have to ask. Why was she prescribed if she was a known addict. I don`t know sometimes, and you would know, I talked to you a long time ago about this question. You brought up prescriber education, doctors needed to understand truly the addictive qualities and understand addiction a little better than they did.

I have been working on that in congress. But you, Dr. Drew, it starts with the very basic premise that Betty Ford taught us so well. You begin by admitting there`s a problem. In our country we need to admit there`s a problem, and recognize, you know, that prescription drugs are the problem right now.

PINSKY: I completely agree. And I think we have to add a corollary to that, which is that addiction drugs are a problem, abstinence is the goal.

Pam, you had great success in your state. Tell us what`s going on there.

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, and we have, first, let me say, we are blessed to have Mary Bono Mack in Congress fighting for our teens and for everyone with an addiction. The two of us have talked about it at length and she`s doing great things.

And you know, Dr. Drew, what we did in Florida is we passed extremely tough legislation to shut down what we call our pill mills, which are basically drug dealers wearing white coats, just sitting back there prescribing oxycodone, prescribing prescription drugs.

So we have tough criminal penalties and tough administrative penalties, working with the department of health and board of medicine to put these bad guys out of business because we all know it`s so easy to get. Other than marijuana in this country right now, prescription drugs are the drug of choice among our youth, and in Florida we were having seven people overdose a day and it had to stop.

PINSKY: And you guys mention cannabis, marijuana. I want to slip in a quick story here. We all hear that Demi Moore was exposed to something called k-2 or spice.

Mary, I understand, you`re looking up this prosthetics so-called very carefully.

MACK: Well, there are a number of people in Congress are looking at synthetics. My biggest focus has been on prescription drugs. You know, again, we have an FDA that is in place, supposed to protect the American people and our children from the dangers of prescription drugs. We have a DEA in place, supposed to protect the American people and our children.

So, I really have been focused on this first and foremost. Synthetics are especially troubling, but for me prescription drugs like Pam said are the drug of choice. It is where the American people are going now.

And I have to applaud Pam Bondi who has been one of the biggest warriors I`ve ever seen on this front in America. She has truly taken on the pill mills in Florida and done an amazing job. And in congress, when you recognize, let me say really fast, Florida feeds the entire eastern seaboard with the pill mills. So she is not only saving lives of those in Floridians but people throughout the eastern United States of America as well as throughout the country. So, my hat is off to Pam Bondi.

PINSKY: I am mostly glad both of you are fighting the good fight. Pam, I talked to you before. Mary, it`s the first time we appeared something like this. And I will get you back here to keep sending this message out loud and clear because we all three agree this is probably the health problem of our time and if we don`t do something about it, yell about it, and take action, I don`t want to think how many more are going to die. So, thank you very much.

BONDI: That`s right. Thank you.

PINSKY: Also, you can watch to remind people, Whitney Houston`s funeral on HLN starting 9:00 eastern time tomorrow morning. I will probably ring in a bit, and then let that be something people watch and think fondly of her life.


PINSKY: Welcome back. Tonight, we have a very important story. An update on the child sex abuse scandal in Los Angeles. Please watch this.


PINSKY (voice-over): The lives of students and teachers at California`s second largest elementary school have been turned upside down and parents are besides themselves since news broke that dozens of students were allegedly violated by two teachers at Mira Monte elementary school.

The entire staff has been replaced including the principal.

DOLORES PALACIO, NEW PRINCIPAL, MIRAMONTE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: We are totally transparent. We are totally open. I welcome them to the school any time. This morning, I invited them to stay in the classrooms as long as they felt comfortable. If their children were uncomfortable, stand at the door and wait until they`re comfortable, see their friends and join them.

PINSKY: Now the school district itself may be in trouble. Los Angeles times reports one of the suspect teachers was paid $40,000 in effect to resign. The accrediting organization for teachers says the school district broke the law waiting a year to inform them it was in the process of dismissing that same teacher.


PINSKY: So I want to get into this deeper, how did this happen. Was there some sort of combination of fear on the part of the kids, maybe a toxic silence?

Joining me to discuss this, Pia Escudero, director of school mental health services at the Los Angeles unified school district. Jaqueline Hurtado, a CNN Espanol reporter who has covered this story from the start, and Keith Davidson, attorney for three families allegedly victimized at the school in Los Angeles.

So Keith, thank you for coming back. You were here before to update us on the story. You actually represented a family in 2004, is that right, same school?


PINSKY: Here we are again. Is there a bigger story going on here?

DAVIDSON: Clearly. Clearly. I mean there`s been a pattern of abuse at Miramonte since 2002 with allegations against the prior teacher Mr. Guevara who is now serving 15 to life. We now have two current teachers at Miramonte in jail. One is being held on some $30 million bail, another has been released on I believe $300,000 bail.

PINSKY: Pia, you`re a social worker, you supervise mental health services at the schools. Saw your shoulders going up when Keith was talking. What`s your response to that?

PIA ESCUDERO, DIRECTOR, SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, LAUSD: Well, I think it is easy from the outside to make it look like there`s something that`s --

PINSKY: Something`s in the district going on.


PINSKY: Were you - have you been involved with the school since 2004? You have been a long time inside Miramonte?

ESCUDERO: I have. Actually about a year before when a teacher committed suicide, I supported the school. And we talked to the staff about their feelings so that they can continue and supporting recovery after that event.

PINSKY: Recovery of the entire community. How is the community doing now?

ESCUDERO: I think today the community has taken a tremendous toll with all of the events and the changes, but for the most part it is a resilient community. The children are coming back to school.

PINSKY: So things are going well there, except I imagine for the people that were victimized, things may never go back to normal for some of them.

DAVIDSON: And even the victimization in the current case, take one of the cases, the Berndt case, that`s been going on for years. And some of the students have left Miramonte, and now in junior high school and looking back on their elementary years with fear and disdain.

PINSKY: Were there hints there was trouble there or just came out of the blue?

ESCUDERO: It really is the opposite story we hear at the school. We hear he was a very loved teacher. He participated in many community events. Went to birthday parties, he attended the local church. People saw him as a mentor.

PINSKY: Is that why it took so long to get him out because people didn`t believe what they were hearing?

ESCUDERO: Well, actually, what I understand as soon as they learned and they filed a police report, attempts were made immediately by then superintendent to fire him. So from there, what happens with law enforcement and the investigation is beyond our control.

PINSKY: So it is not the L.A. unified, it is law enforcement doing the investigation that took so long?

ESCUDERO: That`s right.

PINSKY: Ok. Jacqueline, this is where you come in here. So, a teacher, going to (inaudible), going to the church, going to the parties, that`s a little boundary problem in many communities. Not so where these guys lived?

JAQUELINE HURTADO, CNN ESPANOL REPORTER: No. I can relate to these students, especially growing up in Mexican household. All we know is parents and our teachers. And so, we rely on these teachers. These parents work long hours, they work from 8:00 to 6:00. And so, many of these kids are left with these teachers according to the parents. And you trust them and you built a relationship.

And in the Hispanic community, we`re taught that you listen to the teacher, you listen to authorities, you listen to the principal. So there was this relationship that many of the families created.

PINSKY: You mentioned earlier we talked on the program that there`s even a physical boundaries aren`t as carefully maintained, I don`t know if you`re aware of it, there`s a lot more touching with teachers, it is considered normal or appropriate.

HURTADO: Yes. Many of the parents showed me some pictures that they have with Mr. Berndt and they`re hugging their children, they`re dressed up, they`re at parties. And this is normal for them. They didn`t think anything of it.

PINSKY: You`re a social worker, though. Not good to violate physical boundaries.

ESCUDERO: Well, I think what`s interesting, as you see one picture, and we didn`t get a chance to see these hundreds. They`re actually coming from the community to us. And now, that`s why there`s so many pictures to see.

PINSKY: Let`s -- I want to get that opinion though. Not OK for teachers to touch students physically.

ESCUDERO: Well, I think that teachers know the good touches and bad touches and there are physical boundaries and absolutely, and we train staff and they know not to -- to respect those boundaries.

PINSKY: And Jaqueline, these pictures are coming from all throughout the community. Is there any chance these aren`t all horrible documentations of abuse?

HURTADO: Well, see some of the parents I saw where the children are eating the alleged cookies that have semen. You see them, there`s nothing wrong with the cookie.

PINSKY: Normal cookie, just eating a cookie.

HURTADO: Just eating a cookie.

PINSKY: There`s no blind folded, no cockroach on the face, all these crazy stuff we are hearing about. Just --

HURTADO: A normal kid eating a cookie. And then there`s the teacher feeding the cookie. And the parent said no, I think this is normal. I never thought anything of this picture. And they have seen these pictures the last couple years and they never really thought anything of the pictures.

PINSKY: You also mentioned to me briefly that there`s some suspicion by law enforcement that some may not be truthful?

HURTADO: Yes. I talked to some detectives who are investigating the case, and they said that they`re really analyzing each case, just because there`s so many allegations that they want to make sure that victims that are involved in the case are really victims and that people are not just coming to try to take advantage of the situation.

PINSKY: What would the advantage be for them?

HURTADO: According to the police, some of these would qualify for new visa to be able to stay in this country legally with a residence.

PINSKY: If they were a victim.

HURTADO: If the child was a victim. If the child was a victim and they want to avoid.

PINSKY: Speaking of victimization, Keith, is there also a fear on the part of the community to come forward, fear of deportation and consequences such as that?

DAVIDSON: Of course.

PINSKY: So there are so many levels to the story, it is wild, Pia. I don`t know. I`m glad it is you managing, not me.

ESCUDERO: I see a different part. I see that our families, we had meetings, we opened up our doors, we see attorneys coming in, we see them preying also on our families. We don`t get involved when it becomes a school activity, it is parents only, but we see the opposite as well, so --

PINSKY: So you don`t think there`s a culture of fear, of being somehow thrown to the wolves of immigration?

ESCUDERO: I really don`t, and the school system does not ask for documentation. They know that it they have --

PINSKY: Do they know if they get attention if something horrible happened, Keith, is that a possibility?

DAVIDSON: There are 600 some odd photographs, and search warrants that have been executed at teachers` homes and at CVS where their film was processed. There`s photographs of kids eating spoonfuls of semen. There`s just a complete disregard for supervision at a troubled school in a troubled community and that led to the abuse.

PINSKY: OK Guys, I have run out of time. It`s -- my head is spinning a bit. I must tell you guys. And I hope we keep on top of the story. To the extent kids were victimized, it is a story I can`t let go off. So, I appreciate you all being here. Jaqueline, Keith and Pia. Thank you.

When we come back, words of a father who says his grade school daughter was a victim of abuse at Miramonte elementary school.

And later, Oprah`s fitness guru is here. And David Allen joins us for doctor`s order.


PINSKY: Again, I want to remind you. We are talking about a story I just can`t let go of, it`s about what maybe is a toxic environment that allowed teachers to sexually abuse children at an elementary school in Los Angeles.

Reporter, Jaqueline Hurtado spoke to a father that said his daughter was abused by teacher Mark Berndt. Watch this, we`ll discuss.


JESUS, FATHER OF ALLEGED VICTIM: You know what happened, he gave something bad to eat. What bad? I asked another daughter. Too bad I cannot explain to you. I know I need to know what bad, what`s that. That`s true, he gave me something, that`s true. Then, then she cry. Then momma come to her, tend to my daughter. It is OK, it is OK. You are OK. Did you eat something bad? Now you have nothing inside of you. OK. Take it easy. But she cried around a half hour.


PINSKY: Jaqueline, she is here with me. She conducted that interview. Jackie, that story, the whole story is so sad to me. I mean, I feel like these people feel helpless and victimized by the people they trusted. Is that the right sense of this?

HURTADO: Yes. When I spoke to this father, it was hard for him to open up and tell me what his daughter had gone through.

PINSKY: Was he ashamed?

HURTADO: He was ashamed but confused at the same time. He said because his daughter has been effected psychologically. He still can`t tell his daughter what was on the cookies. He said. how do you explain to an eight-year-old what was on that cookie?

PINSKY: Eight-year-old, how do you explain to anybody what that was? And how did he find out about it?

HURTADO: He said he found out because he went and looked at those pictures. He had seen those pictures two years ago of his daughter eating the cookie. So, he said when he saw the news and this is what they said were on the cookies, he said he just froze. He didn`t believe his daughter had been eating these cookies for so many years, and he doesn`t know if all the cookies contained, you know, semen allegedly.

PINSKY: We just heard Pia from L.A. unified saying the community is coming together, I think settling down there, from your perspective, are they or are they reeling after this?

HURTADO: It is just a lot of confusion. Especially because these kids are still asking, where is my teacher. Many of these parents have said that their teachers are on vacation, because it is a trust system, and they`ll be back. But still don`t tell the kids what`s going on. But they have hope it is going to change, and many of the parents I talked to said they`re getting more involved with the PTA.

PINSKY: That`s good. I asked you in the field are you angry about this, and I won`t put you in that position again. Is the community angry though?

HURTADO: Yes. The community is angry because they say that this is a community who is vulnerable.

PINSKY: It is. That`s what`s so sad about this story. So, they think of themselves that way.

HURTADO: Yes, as vulnerable. They listen to authority, and they never thought that this was happen in the community. They trusted the teachers.

PINSKY: Are they elected some of the advocate on their behalf? Are there leaders emerging from this?

HURTADO: Yes. There are community leaders who are helping them organize, how to get their voice heard. They are starting to sign petitions to create change and have all of the other teachers that were there before come and try to fix the situation and kind of give the kids a little comfort.

PINSKY: All right. Well, Jaqueline. I want to keep on top of this story. Because I think it is not going to go away. And people talk about how sexual abuse and various kinds of abuse these days are something that`s uncommon, no, it is common and happens in all populations. That`s what Pia and I were discussing during the break, it is not just limited to schools where you don`t think it is going to happen in your community, it can. But thank you for keeping on top of this story. It is an important one.

Next up, I take your calls. So, please stay with us. I`ll be back after this.



PINSKY (voice-over): Coming up, Oprah`s fitness mentor and friend Bob Greene, is here. We`ll talk about the effects of abuse on weight, health, and general well-being.

Then, why would someone stab his brother over a brownie? Broadway star and comedian, David Alan Grier, helps me with "Doctor`s Orders."


PINSKY (on-camera): But first, I want to return to the very serious issue of addiction. A couple of reminders. One is that I want to expand this on-call segments tonight to include any topics you guys want to talk about. You can ask me anything medical, interpersonal, a lot of stuff. I`m sort of used to answering questions for people. So, I hope you will continue to e-mail us, Facebook, Twitter us.

And we will take your question and answers and calls and continue to sort of expand the topics on this segment. But tonight, we`re returning to the difficult issue of addiction because that`s what`s flooded in our gates for tonight. I also want to remind you first, you can watch the funeral service for Whitney Houston tomorrow on HLN, 9:00 eastern.

Now, again, as I said, many of you want to talk about prescription drug abuse. Here is what you`re saying.

Facebook question first from Jones, I believe it is, who writes, "How ironic to see a commercial for medication during your show discussing Whitney Houston`s death. One of the reasons Americans use so many prescription drugs, the drug companies advertise heavily to consumers. It`s being suggested that doctors prescribe drugs to make more money. Drew, keep putting out facts to educate the public."

Yes. As I said last night, as physicians, people don`t seem to realize this, we have three things. We have a prescription pad, we have a scalpel, and we have our relationship, OK? You know, psychologist and psychiatrists use the relationship to heal people. I don`t cut, I don`t find that interesting. I don`t like doing that. I like the relationship and the prescribing part.

So, medicine is something we`re used to using. The medicines that are being advertised on our show are not addictive. No addictive drugs. I`m talking tonight about addictive drugs, the benzodiazepine, the opiates, the psycho stimulants. Understand that. By the way, even addictive medicines are not in themselves bad.

If used in the wrong setting, they can be a problem. And my concern is my peers are using them in the wrong setting, and now, the people are dying, and that we have to raise awareness about this. That`s what I`m talking about. That`s why I`m getting so upset about this topic. That`s what Mary and Pam were talking about in that first segment. Mary Beth is calling in. Mary, how can I help there?

MARY BETH: Yes. Hi, Dr. Drew.

PINSKY: Hi, Mary Beth.

MARY BETH: Seven years ago, my husband was treated as an alcoholic, drowned in our bathtub.

PINSKY: Oh, my God! I`m so sorry.

MARY BETH: I was blamed by family and friends for his death. It angers me with Whitney Houston to have so many people blame everyone but her. It has taken me time, but I have finally realized I could not control my husband`s actions.

PINSKY: Right.

MARY BETH: It has taken years, but now, I know.

PINSKY: That`s right. That`s the nature of alcoholism and addiction. And, you know, I had Mike Catherwood on here last night talking about how his love and passion for drugs exceeded everything when he was using. And as even in more pernicious part about prescription drugs is when you`re using them, you lose insight to what`s happening to you.

And alcohol tends to do that also over long, long periods of time. And, you know, when you try to confront people, sometimes, they just don`t hear the message, and all you can do is take care of yourself. Again, if you do take care of yourself before something horrible happens, sometimes, that gets through to the alcoholic addict.

It changes the dance you`re doing with them. So, programs like Al Anon exceedingly important. Go. Go regularly. Get a sponsor. You`ll be surprised what impact it has on the loved one.

Sheree writes, "A positive for Xanax. I have responsibly taken this medication for anxiety, panic disorder for 24 years. It allowed me to have a life. Not everyone abuses it. Please note the benefit/positive effects. Yes, medications kill, yes, but it can also heal."

That was my point at the beginning of this little segment. Reminder also, if you are feeling -- again, medicines in themselves aren`t bad. It`s the relationship that can be a problem. And remind people also, if you have issues with pharmaceuticals, advertising direct to the public, that`s a separate topic for a separate day. Brittany is on the line. Go ahead.

BRITTANY: Hi, Dr. Drew.

PINSKY: Hey, Brittany.

BRITTANY: Both my parents died last summer from prescription pill overdoses.

PINSKY: Can I stop for a second? So, this thing with Whitney must be deeply significant for you.

BRITTANY: Yes. It`s actually a lot like Bobbi Kristina, considering the fact that I was with my grandmother, and you know, I look at her like my mom.

PINSKY: Yes. Yes. And did you have a particular question tonight or comment?

BRITTANY: Just a comment. I wanted to let, whether Bobbi Kristina or anybody out there know, whether it`s an addict or family member, that I found one thing is completely consistent, and that is drugs are always number one. And even though the addict, you know, they love you, but drugs always come first.

PINSKY: And that`s -- you have to understand, it`s not in their soul, although, there`s a spiritual malady here. It`s in their brain. That`s how the brain disorder does its evil deed. That`s how it distorts all their priorities. That`s the nature of addiction, and not everyone gets that. I`m not saying get it in the sense of understanding it.

I`m saying it actually has the genetic potential for that to happen to their brain. You have to be set up for that to happen. Then, the switch gets thrown, then the trouble starts. I am so sorry for you. I`m sorry, Brittany, right, Brittany?


PINSKY: My heart goes out to you. And, thank you for helping raise awareness about this on a night like this when we`re putting Whitney Houston to rest. Thank you.

Patty writes, "I would like to see Dr. Drew address how quickly and easily it is to become dependent to benzodiazepine. It only takes weeks, but doctors will prescribe them for years. The withdrawal from benzo is extremely uncomfortable and takes much longer than typical stays in rehab. I switched to alcohol to relieve those symptoms. I believe this is why you see so many people mixing the two."

I absolutely agree with you. In fact, some of the reports we`ve heard about Whitney, the ways she was behaving in days prior to what horribly happened to her, that sounded like benzodiazepine withdrawal that she was trying to treat with alcohol. That`s exactly what I thought about that.

And you were right. If you have addiction, you take this substance more than about two weeks, you`re going to have withdrawal symptoms. Everyone will have withdrawal symptoms, but if you`re an addict, you will also have drive to keep going with it. Anyone will get some withdrawal. Non-addicts will kind of go through to withdrawal, let it be. An addict will be changed.

They`ll keep pursuing it. They`ll keep going after it. And the other point you made is extremely important. No one pays for the treatment of this stuff. It takes at least two weeks of inpatient to get off this. It`s very hard withdrawal, as you say. And I fought with insurance companies for years. I`m pushing people out the door in three days

That`s a whole other story we hope to tell. Maybe too much for tonight. And -- but, you know, something I feel very passionately about as well. Tonight, let`s just raise awareness about how problematic this stuff is so you and your loved ones don`t end up where poor Whitney ended up.

I have to take a moment here and say something to you all. Tonight is my last program for my senior producer extraordinaire, Quinn Brown. I hope you can see him. Let`s get a picture of him. You possibly can. There he is. He`s been sitting at that desk. He is command and control of this program.

He also was with Larry King for how many years, Quinn? How many years? Eight years with Larry King, and he set up this show. The on-call segment was something that he delivered. The "Doctor`s Orders" was his idea. We say thank you to Quinn. Did I do this wrong? I can`t even do this. You pop it back at me. Quinn, we will miss you.

You really were an integral part of this. I got to go. He`s telling me to wrap. There we go. Quinn, seriously, dude, you will be missed. And for the rest of you that meeting him for the first time, he`ll be out there in the television world --


PINSKY: Why are we so fat in this country and why are some of us, on the other hand, starving ourselves to death? We`re in nation that eats too much or eats obsessively or count every calorie or pays no attention to the calories while this (ph). All right. Well, tonight, I want to expose explicitly the link between childhood trauma and weight.

Joining me to discuss this is Bob Greene. He`s an exercise physiologist, founder of The, and he`s also Oprah`s personal fitness guru. So, Bob, let`s -- I want to get our definition squared. People are screwed up about eating, how to eat, what to eat, when they`re good, when they`re bad, when it`s healthy, when it`s not. How do you define a weight problem?

BOB GREENE, FITNESS EXPERT: Well, a lot of people go to a chart, say 20 or 30 percent of ideal body weight.

PINSKY: BMI is whatever.

GREENE: Yes, and that`s a very clinical way to say it. I like to say what is the mental health of the person or the emotional health of the person. It`s a problem. It`s not necessarily related to the weight. It`s how the person feels about themselves.

PINSKY: So, I want to be sure I`m clear. There`s got to be a threshold where weight is a medical problem in your way of thinking.

GREENE: That`s true.

PINSKY: That`s one way of looking at it.

GREENE: Yes. That`s close more to 25 to 30 percent above an ideal body weight.

PINSKY: The more common thing, I guess, what you`re saying is when somebody is just not happy with their body weight or involved with their body weight in unhealthy ways? Is that way to say it?

GREENE: More of a self-esteem. In fact, an overweight issue, in my opinion, is almost always self-esteem issue.

PINSKY: OK. So, an esteem is built in an interpersonal context. We build our esteem from other people, would you agree with that?

GREENE: Other people would be a primary way. Yes.

PINSKY: What`s the secondary way?

GREENE: Well, just things you do yourself or you do something that pleases yourself, you can build your self-esteem. So, it doesn`t involve necessarily another person.

PINSKY: My experience, oftentimes, had involved service to other people at least, if not doing something for yourself or you`re creating something, for instance, another way. OK. So, self-esteem. And one of the key, in my experience, ways of the self-esteem gets destroyed is in an interpersonal context between people when there`s trauma. Would you agree with that?

GREENE: Absolutely.

PINSKY: Yes. And you must deal a lot with trauma.

GREENE: I do. And what I find really fascinating is when the trauma occurred in someone`s life, also kind of signifies it significance. A younger age is a much more difficult, say, client to work with.

PINSKY: Right.

GREENE: And that could be a generality, but I have found that at the earlier the trauma is that it occurs in someone`s life, the more difficult the situation.

PINSKY: We actually know a lot about the brain and how it`s affected by trauma. The way I like to explain it to people, it`s more sort of plastic. The brain is more affected by experience earlier in life, and the biological changes can be more profound and more sustained when they happen earlier.

I want to define, since we`re talking about trauma, I want to define the kind of trauma we`re talking about tonight. It`s we called interpersonal trauma. So, I`m not talking about an earthquake or a war. I`m talking about something that happens between people, and I`ll call it an experience of terror and powerlessness, this is my definition, you`re looking out up there.

Terror or powerlessness under the age of 12, and again, I`m going to specify as young person`s trauma, often at the hands of parents or important caretakers. That`s what makes it so shattering. And then, when people come out of an experience of trauma like that, they can`t regulate their emotions.

They can`t feel good about themselves, and they gravitate to behaviors that are dysfunctional like the relationship with food.

GREENE: Absolutely. Food, alcohol, in a way, they pass on this trauma or abuse either to themselves or another person.

PINSKY: Now, I want to point out to my viewers some of the people that have been very open about their traumatic (INAUDIBLE) and they`ve had some weight issues. For instance, Oprah Winfrey has been very open about childhood trauma and her struggles of weight. She says that she was sexually abused at the age of nine by a family member. There`s Oprah.

We have also -- I want to put up what Demi Moore has said about her trauma. She made headlines this month, of course, when reports surfaced that she was getting treatment for eating disorder. We don`t really know what she`s getting treatment for. It seems more like substance abuse, but people are concerned about her being terribly underweight.

And then, in 2006 interview with, Demi Moore addressed growing up in a troubled home saying that her mother, Virginia, struggled with bipolar disorder and addiction and alcoholism, of course. She added quote, "My experience is that I was very much the mother to my mother," unquote.

So, here we have Oprah saying that she was sexually abused. We have Demi Moore being parentalized, when a child has to take care, be the parent. That`s traumatic. That feels powerless and overwhelming, and by the way, over a mom who is clearly dangerous and scary. And now, you have people that, as adults, struggle with food. Surprise, surprise.

GREENE: Well, I also think what sometimes is ignored is how prevalent this is. And I think we grossly underestimate how much of this trauma is really going on.

PINSKY: How much do you think?

GREENE: That`s a shot in the dark. That`s a loaded question, but I think it`s prevalent, much more than we think. We think of the Penn State, current Miramonte scandal. I think these things occur, and we get wind of them when it comes to the forefront, but it`s --

PINSKY: Very common. Some people say up to 30 percent. Now, we, at HLN, tried to get confirmation of what Demi said about her mom. We`ve contacted her people, had no contact, no return comment as of yet. Now, I want to also point out Lady Gaga recently admitted that she struggled with bulimia as a teen.

She told a group of Southern California high school students, quote, "I used to throw up all the time in high school, so I`m not that confident. I wanted to be a skinny ballerina, but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night. Weight is still a struggle."

So, it really goes, overeating, under eating are probably also more connected than people realize.

GREENE: Yes. In fact, I`ve seen it before, and I`ve had people that would read a book of mine that`s about weight loss, but they were anorexic and they identified with the things you`re saying which I find very interesting. And I`ve seen people that struggled with their weight most their life, they get hooked and compulsive maybe about the exercise and the restrictive eating, and then, all of a sudden, they become anorexic or have bulimia.

PINSKY: Or exercise with bulimia, which is so many people don`t talk about. You can exercise too much. People get so rewarded for excessive -- my trainer thinks I`m doing a great job, and they`re spending all day at the gym. That`s not healthy either.

GREENE: The truth is, what you do as a trainer professionally, you know that when you`re seeing someone that may have had this trauma or struggled with weight to a severe degree, you`re always replacing a kind of an addiction to food with maybe an addiction to exercise, and you head into that sometimes knowing that`s the case, and eventually, you`ll have to cross that bridge to a more normal life where you`re not addicted to the weight loss or the exercise.

PINSKY: Right. You have to find balance or something. I want to know what the something is. I`m going to say that 20 to 30 percent of people experience trauma of some type --

GREENE: I think it`s higher.

PINSKY: Well, I want to say, overt trauma to some people that I would characterize as causing enough brain effects to cause real signification emotional disregulation, but there`s intermediate traumas also like, you know, the moms that harp on their daughters or --

GREENE: I`m glad you brought that up.


GREENE: Because there`s all degrees. I experience it in different levels, but I see some of the same situations maybe without the same amount of trauma, like as you say, a parent that is, why are you wearing your hair that way, why did you get a C on your report card. When it`s constant, that`s a trauma as well.

PINSKY: And it`s going at the thing that you said is critical and all this that`s eroding their self-esteem.

GREENE: That`s correct.

PINSKY: -- which is the thing that`s -- what do you do to get over this?

GREENE: Well, why I think it`s so much more prevalent, I think there is an epidemic of these feelings of unworthiness. Now, obviously, if you take a young child who was abused, you know, thin odds of overcoming that in a relatively quick or even at all in that person`s lifetime.

But I think it`s an epidemic, and it`s reinforced by someone in authority, typically a parent, a teacher, a coach, and that`s why I see it every day. I see some form of it in almost everybody that`s struggling to lose weight or has been on that diet roller coaster.

PINSKY: And like you say, addiction fits in the same category. They`re either cutting or vomiting, or overeating, or doing drugs, whatever it is, or sex, all kind of -- that same solution category for feeling unregulated emotionally, not Ok in your own skin, right?

GREENE: Well, I think it`s almost recently that people are speaking about it in the terms that you are, that these are all addictions, there`s not necessarily one versus another. They`re all the same thing. It`s kind of picking your poison.

PINSKY: We see the trifecta becoming with eating disorder, cutting, and addiction that was sort of the standard case these days. That`s the combo. And one thing that we find is that one of the results of trauma is the inability to trust. And so, people can`t enter any kind of closeness with other people to rebuild their self-esteem or rebuild their frame. How do you get people to trust you and enter into that frame?

GREENE: What`s always -- you always want to say that what comes first is someone`s emotional foundation, and there are so many people that I see right off the bat that I know hands down need to see a therapist. So, that`s the first thing you would like to say. However, the reality is you usually start them just taking care of themselves, hoping that they connect with feeling better.


GREENE: And when someone exercises, one of the great advantages is not just getting thin, it`s really -- it`s a great way to build self- esteem. And then, the foods, the same way. When you feel like you`re nurturing yourself, that`s the first step, in my opinion. A person needs to identify less with the weight, almost kind of throw it out the window, and identify more with I`m going to nurture myself. My parent didn`t, my teacher didn`t, but I`m going to.

PINSKY: That`s a really important first step. Bob Greene, everybody, founder of Stay with us. More after this.


PINSKY: It is time now for "Doctor`s Orders" where I present some of the most interesting stories of the week and offer prescriptions for how to deal with them. Helping me out tonight is David Alan Grier who I recently saw starring as Porton Life (ph), finally typecasting for him --


PINSKY: A sociopath drug addict in the "Porgy and Bess" right here on Broadway. And I`m telling you, go see this, this is a sensational production. Why do you think this thing is creating so much controversy?

DAVID ALAN GRIER, STAR, "PORGY AND BESS": First of all, I like it, just in the sense that --

PINSKY: You must be wrong.


GRIER: No, no, theater is supposed to engender impassioned response, you know, right at a point where I thought like no one cares about theater, then they do. You know, those people, there are some people who think that "Porgy and Bess" should only be presented as a grand --

PINSKY: Well, I will tell you, the audience I was gave you a ten- minute standing ovation.


PINSKY: And he says it`s all the time. So, go see this production. Go to our stories, the Pennsylvania man stabs his brother after the brother cut a brownie in half, then the man grabbed three knives and slashed his brother on the forearm, shoulder, and wrist. So, you understand the brother --

GRIER: What kind of brownie was it?


GRIER: Did he make the brownie?

PINSKY: So, you`re going right down the path I`m going on. Here are my "Doctor`s Orders." Chocolate is allegedly addictive, but it is the other ingredient that lead to stabbing. So, if you`re making the brownies, as David says, keep the brownies away from brownie lovers, please. OK.

Next story, a man in Vermont was arrested for writing insults on his girlfriend`s car, an insult. He thought he put the word slut on the hood, but he actually wrote the word salt. Police who questioned him busted him when they had him write the word on a piece of paper, and he misspelled it again.


GRIER: Dyslexia, perhaps.

PINSKY: But David, come on now, can`t even spell slut. Where is our educational system going?


GRIER: Can I have the two stories together, maybe he didn`t want to be with this woman because she cooked with too much salt. Call and saying salt, you know? You`re such a salt.

PINSKY: You`re such a salt. There you go. My "Doctor`s Orders" on this one again are that education matters.

GRIER: Reading is fundamental.

PINSKY: Reading is fundamental, even for vandals. There you go. Finally now, residents of a Spanish village, all of them except one, check this out, David, ponied up for the country`s lottery El Gordo. The prize was $950 million and they won all except for the guy who wasn`t around when they collected the money for the ticket.

GRIER: He`s a filmmaker.

PINSKY: Seriously?

GRIER: Perhaps a documentary on himself, my miserable life.


GRIER: Yes. I saw the guy. I heard him interviewed. And he`s very kind of zen about the whole thing. He was not freaked out. He just said he was really happy for all of the towns` people. He seemed like, you know, it happened. They came to his door. He was running errands. He missed the lottery.

PINSKY: In this country, there`d be a lawsuit.

GRIER: Lawsuit? There`d be a stabbing. There`d be brownies. There would be the word salt scrawled on everyone`s door.

PINSKY: So, here are my "Doctor`s Orders," which is basically just listen to dag, David Alan Grier, and go see him in "Porgy and Bess," the Gershwin`s "Porgy and Bess."


PINSKY: It is a sensational production, generating some controversy that I can`t understand.

GRIER: Well, they can watch our production twice, then it will be four and a half hours long.

PINSKY: There you go. David, thanks for joining us. Thanks you all for watching. I will see you next time.