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Tom Arnold`s Hell: Secret Opiate Addiction

Aired February 24, 2012 - 21:00   ET


DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.

Pain medication pitfalls. Another celebrity addicted to prescription drugs. Tom Arnold is here to come clean about his own struggle with the same thing.

And marathon man, he is losing his eyesight, but gaining in a vision for a cure and running blindfolded, believe it or not, in the process.

Let`s get started.

Good evening and welcome to the program.

Now, if you are watching my program for awhile, you know we try to hook things to the news of the day. And obviously I didn`t intend for my show to be about addiction and recovery and these sorts of issues that I think are so important, but when Whitney Houston died, it was something that sort of burst onto the scene, and I simply can`t ignore it, so we`re dedicating a lot of time to this.

And yet again tonight, we have another celebrity with a drug addiction. Representatives for actor Gerard Butler saying only that he completed, quote, "a successful course of treatment and return home in good health."

Now, again, I just have to remind people, if somebody goes in for three or four weeks of treatment, they are just beginning the process of recovery. They`re just enrolled in the process because of those three or four weeks.

The idea - that statement drives me crazy about the issue (ph) because it gives the idea that somebody went into treatment now, they`re fine, let`s get going. Bring him back. Get going.

My guest knows all about this, Tom Arnold. He is here tonight and he`s going to talk about a story he has not told, a story that was - I want to say it was secret, you weren`t even aware as it was happening, I don`t think you were.


PINSKY: I know I wasn`t because I was there standing by your side during part of it. So what are we going to talk about tonight?

ARNOLD: Well, first of all, I`m very happy for Gerard Butler. He`s a great guy. I hope he gets some peace and I`m sure he will.

PINSKY: Let`s - you should reach out to him because as you know the next part is really the marathon.

ARNOLD: Absolutely. I`m sure he already has a bunch of good friends and that Hollywood has a great community.

PINSKY: Rich community, rich community.

ARNOLD: It does. You know, I come on here and I come on shows and I talk about addiction a lot, and, you know, I do have a lot of experience of my own with this. But there`s something that I haven`t spoken about. In 1989, December 10th, I got sober, went to rehab, it was very public.

PINSKY: That was when - you then saw yourself as a cocaine addict.

ARNOLD: Cocaine addict, alcoholic, yes. And since then I went into working a good program, like you say, spent a lot of times going to meetings, talking to other people that were alcoholics, being of service to other people who were alcoholics many years, almost 20 years.

And thinking that I had - I got a little arrogant. And it is a baffling, powerful disease that comes in many ways. Now that I look back on it, probably in 2006, I remember I broke a rib during a little funny fight on a TV show. It got out of hand. And I went to the doctor. I never - and I kept saying, I will - like I knew so many guys who are addicted to pain medication and opiates and I said I`m not an opiate guy. I`m not a pill guy.

PINSKY: Not a pill guy.

ARNOLD: Are you crazy (ph)?

PINSKY: You can`t imagine how many alcoholics I hear say that.

ARNOLD: Right.

PINSKY: Like I`m not those pill people. Those guys do pills.

ARNOLD: And I should have known. The point is, I should have known of all people. I had taken people to rehab for this very reason. And so -

PINSKY: But wait a minute. Let`s go back to that moment. You had a legitimate pain need.


PINSKY: You went to a doctor. You appropriately were given some pain medication, you were in pain.

ARNOLD: (INAUDIBLE) Vicodin. And I do remember what - maybe the second one or third one I took, something clicked. And you know how they say I like peanut M&Ms, but if you`ve got regular M&Ms, I`ll eat those, OK?

So something clicked. And, you know, it was a Friday night I got injured. So I`m not going to bother my friends, whatever you call them, your sponsors, whatever you call - I`m not going to bother because I got this handled. These eight (ph) Vicodin. If I didn`t make that call and reached out, I wouldn`t - I wouldn`t be where I was. So -

PINSKY: And let`s applaud your doctor only gave you eight Vicodin.

ARNOLD: Right.

PINSKY: Because they might have given you 30 and it could have been really -

ARNOLD: I went back for 90 on Monday, trust me. It was - it was quick. Because I thought I`m truly in pain. A broken rib hurts. So I didn`t take - start immediately as it happens, just start, you know, eating pain medication, but things came up.

I had a back injury, I twisted something, whatever. And then instead of any other kind of treatment, I`ll say we`ll get pain medication.

PINSKY: Well, let me - let me stop you there. Because I want to sort of roll out how the story evolves for you, because it`s such a common story. I mean, somebody who`s successful in recovery. This is how Adam Goldstein went down, too.

ARNOLD: I believe. I know him well.

PINSKY: Same exact thing. He had legitimate panic and anxiety and, boom, take him out. There`s really more to his story.

ARNOLD: Right.

PINSKY: I wish he were here to tell it, God bless him.

ARNOLD: Right.

PINSKY: But you`re legitimately in need of pain. And you know what to do, but your thinking is now broken because you`re under the influence. And so off your disease goes and you get a big supply.

And once you`re taking it regularly, you people should be aware of this, chronic - like two or more weeks exposure to opiates, it gives you low back pain, it causes back pain. It`s part of the withdrawal - the chronic withdrawal of opiates.

And so you go back to the doctor, I`ve got this horrible back pain. You`re taking three to six Vicodin a day, and then they give you - they give you something else.

ARNOLD: Right. They`ll give you something else. They`ll give you more or they`ll give you OxyContin. You know, because you - you do get used to it quick. So three to six is not enough and then it is 12. Or they give you a more powerful medication.

But I don`t blame the doctors, I blame me. I mean, I had all the information. And, when I hear about Whitney Houston and her friends are saying, oh, she`s sober. She was just drinking and whatever, drinking is not sober, you know? But I also -

PINSKY: That`s carrying a loaded gun.

ARNOLD: But I also believe everybody in her life that was close to her tried to help her, so I believe it`s on - she`d been to rehab a few times, it`s on me for what I did. It`s not on the people around me, the doctors -

PINSKY: But let me - let me play a little devil`s advocate. Your thinking was broken. You were in a state where your thinking was broken. I don`t like to blame the patients when their thinking is busted. Somebody should have sensed something. And I mean you guys are good, I`ll grant you that.

ARNOLD: Very good.

PINSKY: Addicts can hide stuff. So you were hiding that all from your sponsor.

ARNOLD: Absolutely. I hid it, but I was also - you know, when I stopped and looked back, I said I`ve been a phony, I mean who am I? I`m a fool but I was taking other people to rehab and telling them what to do and doing interventions and all this stuff, when in fact I had this, you know, I had this relapse myself.

And I didn`t realize it at first because I thought I`m within the bounds of this thing.

PINSKY: You`re following doctor`s orders.

ARNOLD: I`m following doctor`s orders. But then - but I wasn`t working my program correctly because there is a procedure where you tell - you speak to someone and they bring up things like that, and I didn`t do that intentionally. That`s my disease.

So in 2008, I had a motorcycle wreck, I broke my back. And I was on - I remember laying on the PCH Highway and I could hear the ambulance coming, and I just knew, oh, my God, it was so exciting.

Because in about 30 seconds I was going to have morphine and I knew it was going to be just - so that I was deep into it by then.

You know, it came to a head. I got - I was in Shanghai with Ashley, and who really saved my life.

PINSKY: Your wife does (ph).

ARNOLD: People talk about their wives saving their life, my wife, literally.

PINSKY: I was there. She literally saved your life.


PINSKY: We hope we`ll have - but we have two minutes to get to that part of the story.

ARNOLD: Exactly. So, you know, I was in there, we had a dinner and she gave me a 20-year sober thing, emblem, a sheep (ph) or whatever, and it was - I remember thinking by now I was not able to even lie to myself. I said I have relapsed. I`m not even sure when. After I got sober again, I went back and documented what it was. But I`m full of it.

PINSKY: But now you went to an addiction doctor.

ARNOLD: Right, right. But before that, the next day after she me that 20-year - she went shopping in Shanghai and I went to the American Doctor Hospital and went in and said, hey, I`ve got a hurt back, you know, and I had a fractured vertebra still that just probably never heals.

PINSKY: Right.

ARNOLD: It was my go-to thing. I said, x-ray my back. It`s there. More pain medication.

You know, I also tried, I`ve ordered it off the Internet once, which is like, you know, who knows what that even is. And so I was in full blown relapse.

And so I finally said I got it - before I tell my close friends, my buddies in the program, I`m going to get off this and then I`ll be honest with them. That`s such a lie and I couldn`t do it.

And so this was in December of 2009. So it just goes on. And now we`re in the summer of 2010, and I have about once a month, I end up at the emergency room and that`s a big tell. We get super sick once a month. And it`s either because we`ve overused or because we`re detox-ing. And when you detox, you are sick.

PINSKY: Right.

ARNOLD: And even from this pain med which had gone up, gone up. So July, I finally came clean with people to a point. You know, I wasn`t 100 percent honest still. But I went to an addiction specialist.

And so she started taking down, you know, at the time I was taking Norco, and she started taking down. And then we got down to three Norco a day, which is, you know, you should be able to live with this.

And by the way, the only reason I would lie because I never went back - I never believed I was in relapse for a long time, so I never went back to cocaine. Because people - what happened to DJ AM, is he said I`m in relapse, I might as well go back to what I used to do, and smoke it and do these other things, and that`s what killed him.

You know, if he had stopped - and if I went back to even drinking and using pain medication, I would be dead.


ARNOLD: But I almost died anyway. And so I feel like I`m doing pretty good. I go to bed on the 9th of August, 2010. I wake up with terrible intestinal pains, which what I had before. It always felt I had a blockage.

Finally, Ashley said you have to go to the hospital, in an ambulance because I couldn`t move. I get in there, they look at me. They examine me for several hours. She goes home. They call, say, come pick him up. She comes back and I`m completely out of my mind, just not making any sense. She says something is wrong with him. I am not taking him home.

Now, if I had gone home, I would be dead, because my colon had ruptured, you know, and I was -

PINSKY: All the backup -

ARNOLD: The backup.

PINSKY: -- from all the opiates.

ARNOLD: And opiates will weaken your insides. You know, there are long lasting effects of drugs like cocaine on your heart and these other things, so we don`t even - you may not even be on the drug when it hits you.


ARNOLD: So that`s what happened with me.

So I was septic. I was poisoned. And the doctor - a new doctor came in, said oh, man, and told we have to operate. Cut me straight open in just a bad angle, I ended up with hernias because of it. But he cut me open and then he said call his family, because I went into a coma for three weeks.

So I was in a coma. My family came out, I didn`t even know they were there, you know? And so my wife went from taking her husband to the hospital to check out this intestinal thing to we think he`s dead. We think he is going to die soon. You better get -

So she doesn`t know anything. She doesn`t know all the lies that I`ve told her. She doesn`t know the lies I`ve told everybody about, you know, how sober I was for those years. She only knows that, oh, I`m a sober guy, I got friends, I do this.

So you know, I`m in here and she started to figure things out. I know one of the things she did was to call you. Because she had no -

PINSKY: She had a hint. She figured out really fast, and the thing that scared her to death is their plan was to put you back on opiates.

ARNOLD: Right.

PINSKY: That was their plan, give you Suboxone or Methadone or something, and I said no, no, no. And she got in the way of that like I`ve never seen.

ARNOLD: Right.

PINSKY: She was very fantastic.

ARNOLD: Yes, she`s, you know, she`s the best. She`s the best.

So anyway, I`m in there and I start to come to about five weeks at UCLA.

PINSKY: I`ve got 30 seconds and I then I`ve got to go to a break.

ARNOLD: OK. Just but very quickly, she kept saying one day and say I need to show you something, because I didn`t see the wound. I had a wound. I was open that much inside of me. With that - and she goes I need to show you. She showed me a mirror and I saw what I`ve done to myself. It made me sick.

And she said there`s one more thing I have to show you. And she pulled back this cloth here and showed me that I had a colostomy. And I said, oh, my life is over, that is - that`s it.

And then she said, well, thank God it`s temporary, but that`s what I had done to my body by using pain medication. And that`s -

PINSKY: You`re a sober person.

ARNOLD: Yes. Quote-unquote, "sober person."

PINSKY: And just to bring it all the way forward - I`ll bring it forward after the break to the present.


PINSKY: There`s a good ending to this.


PINSKY: So we`re going to bring in a couple more people to talk about the specter of this problem, what other treatment options might be out there and the controversy behind so much of this. And you`re going to find out where Tom ended up and how he ended up so well today.

Stay with us.


PINSKY: We are back with Tom Arnold. I`m also joined by Bob Forrest, founder of Bob Forrest Counseling Services and Dr. Robert Waldman, an addiction specialist at Cliffside Malibu.

And Tom, bring us all back to the present and you guys who have been listening to the story I hope on the satellite.

ARNOLD: OK. And so I`m in - I stayed at UCLA for five weeks. And then it`s decided, maybe, you know, because I can`t get my colostomy taken down as (INAUDIBLE) for 90 days. I said I`m going to hide out from everybody, this is humiliating. I have this -

And then one of my friends says, you know, it would be nice if you went to rehab now. I was like I`ll just wait. And it saved my marriage. And I said if I said to Ashley, I`ll go to - this is the first manly thing I did. I`m going to go directly to rehab.

So I went down to rehab and I was sitting there and I had no friends, nothing, and it was lonely. And I had myself. And I put much of my identity into being the sober guy. Unfortunately I had done that, which is not right. And so I`m a phony and I`m a fraud.

And I`m sitting here and - the first thing happened, I got a call from an old sponsor. He said, you know, the good thing is all the good things you did in life still count. Don`t erase the times of your service to people or whatever, which I needed something, because I hated myself obviously.

And then I was sitting and I said I`m never going to show anybody this thing. This is so embarrassing. I was sitting in my group. And there`s three 17-year-old boys that were heroin addicts and taking opiates, same thing, I was like the same thing as they were. And nothing could get to these kids. They were tough. They`re not afraid of dying.

And so finally one day I said, hey, what do you think about this. And I pulled up my shirt and showed my colostomy and my giant hole. And there - I said this is what happens. This can happen to you from doing what you`re doing. They were horrified.

And I think that - that I said, oh, maybe I can reach people by this disgusting thing that happened to me.

PINSKY: Now, Bob, I`m going to go out to you. Bob Forrest, that - this kind of story that Tom is telling does not surprise you or me, does it?

BOB FORREST, FOUNDER, BOB FORREST COUNSELING SERVICES: Well, you and I have been seeing it for years now, 12-step community members relapsing on prescription drugs and they come to us in secret, just like what Tom is talking about, remember that, Drew?

PINSKY: Oh, yes. I remember lots of those people. And my fear as though, Bob, as you and I have been saying, is that if they would just stay with the illicit stuff, maybe they`d be alive. It`s the prescription drugs that are killing people.


PINSKY: I`m going to go out to Dr. Waldman, who - now you believe - you have used replacement therapy. I`m very skeptical about replacement because it ends up in places like where Tom ended up. Do you agree with that?

DR. ROBERT WALDMAN, ADDICTION EXPERT, CLIFFSIDE MALIBU: I agree it`s a big problem. Suboxone has really become a drug of diversion. The pharmaceutical company is very responsible. You know, they`ve changed the preparation so that now it`s a film, it`s a little bit harder to divert.

And the second big problem that I see with Suboxone frequently as patients become expert at what I like to refer to as the Suboxone roller coaster, they use Suboxone in between scores. So they get their opiates. They stop the Suboxone and use, they run out of opiates, they go back on their stash of Suboxone and keep themselves comfortable, they become expert at it.

And, of course, the third problem with Suboxone is when you do get around to deciding you don`t need it anymore, you get a year clean or what have you, there`s a very substantial withdrawal syndrome to stopping it.

PINSKY: Yes. Bob, you and I have been dealing with that for a long time. We prefer to take somebody off heroin than take them off methadone or Suboxone.

But Doctor, my question to you, is why - why if Suboxone run replacements or harm avoidance therapies are so great and our peers advocate them, why don`t we ever use them when we`re treating a physician? Why would - for us and our peers, abstinence is the only alternative if they`re going to remain a physician.

You know, for everybody else, put everybody else on harm avoidance and replacement.

WALDMAN: Well, the answer to that is twofold. Number one, I have used Suboxone in physicians and other healthcare providers because as you know it`s a very safe and pain-free withdrawal. So it`s a great drug to facilitate.

PINSKY: Well, I`m not talking about it for withdrawal, I`m talking about it to use as a replacement medication, which is what`s being advocated for all the time.

WALDMAN: Sure. And again, for somebody who has cravings, for somebody who is going to use illicit means if they`re given access, an opportunity, Suboxone really is the preferred drug of choice in that circumstance.

And I hate to go cliche on you, but you really have to individualize therapy. And there are definitely people in whom you would not want to use Suboxone. I don`t think it would be legal to operate or do anything -

PINSKY: That`s right.

WALDMAN: -- in the professional field because it`s an opiate.

PINSKY: That`s exactly right. I`ve taken Suboxone.

WALDMAN: And so you would be considered impaired.

PINSKY: I`ve got 15 seconds. I`ve got to go. I`m going to pick up with that on the next segment. Thank you, Dr. Waldman.

Next, why - you know, we`re going to continue this conversation going Tom was on Suboxone. We`re going to talk about his experience with that. Bob Forrest used to abuse this medication, but not specifically Suboxone, but buprenorphine and the Suboxones.

So stay with us. We`ll be right back.


PINSKY: Welcome back.

Tom Arnold is here, sharing a very personal story. You were saying as they got you off of the opiates when you had your surgery that you sought -

ARNOLD: Right, because I had seven major surgeries because of this.


ARNOLD: I mean I messed myself up. I was in the hospital five months. But my wife made such a stink as well as she should that they were afraid to give me anesthesia for a surgery. And so they were so scared.

And so finally I met a good doctor which we agree he is, Dr. (INAUDIBLE).

PINSKY: He was great.

ARNOLD: And he was great. And he - they put me on Suboxone, but we had a plan immediately.

PINSKY: To get off.

ARNOLD: I went right from surgery to Suboxone.

PINSKY: Yes, and then off.

ARNOLD: And then off it.

PINSKY: And Bob - I`ll bring Bob in. Because Bob - what Bob Forrest and I deal with all the time is that they get on it and they use it as tapering them and then they get into a withdrawal, and the doctors just keep them on it because they`re having withdrawal symptoms, which now if you stay on it, you`re going to have horrible withdrawal symptoms.

FORREST: Yes. And I was on it in the late `80s, early `90s, it was being prescribed illegally in the United States, bupenorphine. You used it just the way the doctor said, to patch you through on tour, to kind of mix and match, to keep manipulating your chemistry so that you don`t have withdrawals.

Listen, I`m a big believer in you got to pay the piper sooner or later. And why I am so - have such a problem with Suboxone is what`s always described, no withdrawal symptoms. Well, you`re supposed to have withdrawal symptoms. That`s how you remember how you don`t want to do this any more. And what happens is -

PINSKY: And another, Bob, we can - I can get anybody off opiates. You and I worked at it for a couple decades and we can get - there was nobody we couldn`t get off opiates.

FORREST: In a week. In a week, you can get anybody.

PINSKY: Easily in a week.

FORREST: In a week. And the problem is -

PINSKY: But, Bob, one last thing. Your reactions, before you go, I`ve got just two minutes, your reaction to Tom`s story.

FORREST: Oh, it`s just heartbreaking, you know, and just all the medical complications due to addiction. These are the things that America does know nothing about, heart disease and the liver problems and hepatitis C that`s come along.

This is a wave that`s destroying people`s lives in kind of quiet ways, not Whitney Houston ways, and very quiet. You know, if Tom had died, I`m sure it would have been, oh, he had, you know, some septic problem. And no one would have traced back to say you know what, it`s a drug problem.

PINSKY: Right.

FORREST: And I`m glad it`s over. It`s good to see you.

PINSKY: Tom, I have to close this out.

PINSKY: I`m glad, too. And tell you what, and he lived through this.

But what - in the last minute, can we kind of bring this all around, what do you want people to know about your story?

ARNOLD: Well, I mean it`s just -

PINSKY: And maybe tie it even to the Whitney thing, which has caught people`s attention now, tied us all together.

ARNOLD: Well, you know, I mean, it`s going to happen again, and any version of this story that you could tell my story is a little bit different about what could happen to your body, it`s not just death, there are worse things than death, you can hurt somebody else, you can end up in a particular way.

But I think that, you know, my story is, you know, that I at least came back. You know, I got lucky. I got another chance in life, you know? But watch out because you don`t know. And what you`ve done with these drugs may come and haunt you years later.

PINSKY: In ways you don`t even realize.

ARNOLD: And I think another thing to think about.

PINSKY: Just because it`s doctor prescribed.

ARNOLD: And it`s so easy to get addicted, even with all of that sobriety, damn.

PINSKY: Thank you, Tom.

ARNOLD: Thank you, buddy.

PINSKY: I`m sure I`m very proud of you for being here to tell the story.

ARNOLD: Thank you.

PINSKY: Thank you to Bob, of course.

Next, your questions and my answers about pain medication, Whitney Houston, that casket photo. Any other topics you want to bring up, I`m trying to include in that "On Call" segment. So we will try to broaden our topics a little bit. So stay with us.



PINSKY (voice-over): Ahead, marathon man, E.J. Scott is in a race, not just for time and distance. Why and how is he running blindfolded? We`ll tell you about his eyesight lost, his vision for a cure, and what the Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong, has to say about.

But first, I`m answering your questions about prescription medication, Whitney Houston, and anything else you`d like to ask.


PINSKY: All right. So, welcome to this on-call segment. Now, believe it or not there`s a photo of Whitney Houston in her casket out there, and it was on the front page of the "National Enquirer." People have reacted to this. I`m disgusted by it. What do you think about that? Let`s go to the phones. Terry, you`re on the line there from Connecticut. What`s going on, Terry?


PINSKY: Hi, Terry.

TERRY: I just want to make a quick comment about that.

PINSKY: Please.

TERRY: And I want to say I think it`s really appalling, you know, whoever shot that picture of her on the cell phone, I think should be very ashamed of themselves, you know, and trying to --

PINSKY: Let me ask you this, Terry. Terry, let me ask you. Should we be disgusted with the person that snapped the photo, the person that put it on the front page of a newspaper, or how about all of us that buy the damn newspapers? I say it`s us. I say it`s us.

TERRY: I don`t buy that anyways, but I think it should be everybody.

PINSKY: Yes, everybody. All right. Let`s spread the responsibility around. I agree with you.

TERRY: Exactly.

PINSKY: But aren`t you sick, I`m sick of us, I`m sick of us, consuming that crap, aren`t you?

TERRY: I am. I`m very -- I just tell everybody, you know, boycott it, you know?

PINSKY: Yes. Don`t buy it, and they won`t put the crap on there. Yes. If you don`t buy it, if there`s no market, they won`t make money. They won`t put those damn pictures out there. It`s us. I say it`s us. I really do.

TERRY: It is all of us, you know, and that`s why I said from the beginning, from her passing, that it`s all of us, if we don`t want this to happen, then we don`t buy the magazines and make it happen.

PINSKY: That`s right.

TERRY: And up the sales.

PINSKY: That`s right. I believe there`s something to learn from celebrity behavior, but if you can`t -- it doesn`t have any potential lesson, leave these people alone. Thanks, Terry. Appreciate it.

Andrea has this to say about Whitney. "This should be a wake-up call to people all across the country. Class and respect for others is gone. This is distasteful. You have to put yourself in someone else`s shoes. If this was your mom or grandma, how would you feel?"

You know what, that was very well said. Very well said. And here`s where I put that again back on us. We`ve lost our capacity for empathy. We`ve lost our capacity to put ourselves in other people`s shoes. Something we have to develop -- by the way, in our brains, empathy is the very highest order function that develops in the brain, develops last developmentally.

And I say these days, we haven`t developed it at all. Peggy on Facebook, "Unbelievable. Just what little kids need to see when they go to the store with their parents. I still remember when Elvis Presley was on the cover in the coffin. Wrong."

And yes, Peggy, we do not learn. We`re still doing this. Amanda on Facebook writes, "Just like Michael Jackson`s autopsy pic, shaking my head. Let these people rest in peace." Yes. I think we`re all sort of saying the same thing here, but honest to goodness, look at yourselves. It`s easy to point fingers to the people that print newspapers. Don`t buy them.

Melissa in New York, what`s going on? You`re on the line.


PINSKY: Hi, Melissa.

MELISSA: There have been recent reports that it was a combination of drugs that caused Whitney Houston`s heart attack which caused her death.

PINSKY: Right.

MELISSA: And on one of your recent shows, you spoke of the risk of an addict trying to stop without medical intervention because it could cause heart failure.

PINSKY: Right.

MELISSA: How could a heart attack brought on by doing drugs be medically differentiated from one brought on by someone trying to stop doing drugs.

PINSKY: Know this, heart attacks caused by drugs are caused really pretty much only by cocaine. And so, let`s define what heart attack is. Your heart has three main vessels in it, arteries, that feed it oxygen. And if a clot forms in one of those vessels, the tissue dies downstream on that vessel, so where the blood doesn`t get, it dies. That`s a heart attack.

That`s probably not why Whitney Houston died. Whitney Houston died because she stopped breathing. She had respiratory failure that led to other organ damage, stopping breathing, and that`s the thing we see that all the time with our patients. When they combine medicines like a benzodiazepine, like an alcohol, like an opiate, they stop breathing, and then, other tissue damage ensues.

Now, you asked the question about withdrawal. Typically, people in withdrawal when they die, they die because they have a seizure and the aspirate, meaning, stuff gets into the lungs. There wasn`t any evidence of that on her autopsy. Or, they develop an alcohol withdrawal syndrome and they develop a true delirium tremens which is a cardiovascular collapse.

Hard to describe. It`s like you go into shock from the alcohol withdrawal. And no evidence of that really either. So, I`m say respiratory failure, not heart attack. Something different.

Here`s an e-mail from Revee. She says, --gentleman here. "My wife is in the medical industry and is addicted to OxyContin. How do I approach her peers and supervisors about not giving her prescriptions? Now, I wish I can have Revee online so I could figure out which sort of field that he or she was in.

The medical community is very astute to handling these problems in their own. Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, whatever it might be, they`re put into diversion programs. They are well-being committees. Find out who the head of her department is, tell them immediately. She will have to stop work, because she`s dangerous to other people. This is why you can`t take opiate replacement therapies and be in a caretaking field or highly skilled professional field.

You`re on drugs. Your judgment is off. You can`t do it, which is why they come out of treatment. They get into an abstinence-based program, nursing diversion, physician diversion, depending what state you`re in can be excellent. They have excellent outcomes. Again, these peer support groups that are designed, specifically, for particular disciplines are very, very successful.

Rebecca writes, "Drew, I`m a recovering addict. I want to go to rehab. I`m scared to withdraw myself. I feel isolated and frightened. By the way, I`m a registered nurse. Could you address addiction in the medical profession?" How much time do I have, like 20 seconds or something? That`s a massive question.

You, my dear, must go to a program called nursing diversion. Here`s the deal, women, -- women -- nurses that men and women that go to nursing diversion have nearly 100 percent probability of sustained recovery, They do exceedingly well. Physicians in diversion do exceedingly well.

Medical professionals that don`t go into diversion program do much poorer than average. The outcome is awful. So, if you`re saying to me, I`ll do anything, I just won`t go to diversion. Here`s what I hear, I don`t want to get sober. I`m going to be over here. That is not OK. We need you to survive. We need you to be sober, and we need you not to be dangerous to other people, which is why these programs are so rigorous and have such good outcomes.

And really, having the support of your peers who understand the stress of being a nurse is so critically important when it comes to things like recovering from this kind of an addiction. It`s very common. ER nurses, ICU nurses, particularly high risk and doctors, psychiatrists, ER doctors, that swash buckling fields are the ones to tend to get a little more of this, because addicts are tend to be risk takers. They tend to be turned on by that stuff.

All right. Guys, next stuff, marathon man, E.J. Scott, he just ran a race blindfolded. He`s here to tell us why and how he did this, so don`t go away.


PINSKY: Tonight, we`re bringing you an aspiring story of hope and perseverance. The story we`ve been following for a couple of months. A young man on the verge of going blind racing to save his eyesight. Take a look at this.


PINSKY (voice-over): And with that, more than 15,000 runners took to the streets to participate in the Austin marathon. This grueling 26.2-mile course was especially challenging for one particular participant who ran the full marathon blindfolded with a guide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s doing great.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, mile four and a half-ish.

PINSKY: His name is E.J. Scott, and he is slowly going blind. About ten years ago, E.J. was diagnosed with choroideremia or CHM, a genetic eye disease that slowly erodes your peripheral vision, and eventually, your central vision. E.J.`s brother and seven-year-old nephew have also been diagnosed with this disease and there is no cure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep it up, good job.

PINSKY: So, E.J. decided he had to take action to raise awareness and funding for CHM. He`s running 12 marathons this year, one a month, hoping to raise $12,000 per race. E.J. has to run each race blindfolded because cumulative exposure to sunlight would further damage his eyes. Austin was race number two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it. He`s got it.

PINSKY: Before the race, E.J. met up with seven time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, who`s Live Strong Cancer Foundation sponsored the event.

LANCE ARMSTRONG, SEVEN-TIME TOUR DE FRANCE WINNER: When I read the article in paper, I was like, hmm, blindfolded, I`m going to walk over to coffee pot blind. I mean, just cover my eyes. You know, we take -- people take things for granted in life. Obviously, you know, your sight is something that obviously is most of us taken for granted. All of us take for granted.

I mean, 26 miles, how many steps is that. Five hours? Thousands and thousands of steps and we all take a step and we see where we`re going for the most part, all of us, you know, and just it`s admirable. I can`t even imagine.

PINSKY: After six hours running blindfolded, E.J. and his guide cross the finish line.

E.J. SCOTT: I feel really good that I finished. My legs are bunch of pain going on.

PINSKY: A proud moment for E.J. and his mom.

MARION SCOTT, E.J. SCOTT`S MOTHER: You know, he`s really accomplished so much, and I`m just really incredibly proud of what he`s doing for himself and for so many other people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just emotional high, seeing him coming in at the end there. So, I mean, really did a great job. Really did.


PINSKY (on-camera): With us to discuss E.J.`s efforts to find a cure for his eye condition, it`s called choroideremia, his doctor, Albert Maguire. He`s an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, and of course, joining me in the studio, E.J. Scott, whom you just saw enduring a grueling 26-mile run blindfolded this past Sunday. So, how did you do?

E.J. SCOTT: I finished with five hours, 41 minutes, but I finished uninjured. So, that`s a win for me.

PINSKY: Where can people go to help contribute? You`re going to do a race a month, right?

E.J. SCOTT: One a month.

PINSKY: Where can people go to contribute to your cause?

E.J. SCOTT: is the best place to go. You can learn about the disease and find a page that has a PayPal just for my runs and things like that. Yes.

PINSKY: And basically, the disease is an accumulation of proteins in the retina, the part where your images are reflected on your eye. That`s where images come in and then transmit that information back to your brain.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes.

PINSKY: And you have a gene that doesn`t produce proteins normally that basically move proteins within cells.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes. Yes, yes.

PINSKY: So, stuff accumulates in there.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes. And I`m down to -- if you try, I can see 90 degrees, I`m down to my teens for each eye. So, I`ve lost a lot.

PINSKY: We actually don`t. You guys in the control room get me that picture out here. We had actually sort of -- we tried to illustrate your vision loss, what it looked like from your point of view.

E.J. SCOTT: Right.

PINSKY: Put that up there if you could. There would be normal vision, and you said it`s like looking through two paper towels.

E.J. SCOTT: It`s like one paper towel. You said last time, it`s like binocular, comes together as a tunnel vision-type thing. Yes.

PINSKY: Right. And is your vision OK in the central area?

E.J. SCOTT: It`s OK in the central area. I can see you pretty well. But if you were to raise your hand up and put fingers up, I can`t see it.

PINSKY: Right. And is the central area going to go?

E.J. SCOTT: Yes, eventually, that will be all gone.

PINSKY: It`s got to be tough for the people around you. We saw your parents there. I met your girl friend, and she seems extremely supportive.

E.J. SCOTT: Super.

PINSKY: Can I mention her name?

E.J. SCOTT: Go ahead.

PINSKY: You tell me her name.

E.J. SCOTT: Deborah Ann Woll.

PINSKY: Deborah Ann Woll, and I got a picture with her and my daughter who`s a fan of her television show almost (INAUDIBLE). Nothing ever has been as important in my career as having my picture with her. But, I mean, it must be interesting for her, too, and your parents to support you while you go through this.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes. It`s great. It`s great to have the support. I mean, my parents came out for that marathon. They live in New York, and they came out to that one. The next one is going to be in Los Angeles. My girlfriend will be at that one. She actually surprised me for last month in Arizona, she just showed up.

PINSKY: There you are, guys, on red carpet.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes, my one suit.

PINSKY: Well, looks pretty good, I must say.

E.J. SCOTT: Thanks.

PINSKY: Now, I want to go out to Dr. Maguire who`s working and fighting to do something for this condition. Did I get the condition right? Is that a way to explain it? And then, what are we looking forward in the future as potential treatments for this problem?

DR. ALBERT MAGUIRE, ASSOC. PROF. OF OPHTHALMOLOGY U. OF PENN.: You got that exactly right. It`s a loss of both side vision and also night vision. A lot of these patients need to count the number of steps to get from point A to point B at night because they have absolute blindness at night.

And where we`re going, we`ve developed a drug with a gene therapy technique. And, we treated animals that have the same exact genetic condition, and they`ve shown some very promising rescue. And we`ve also treated the disease in cells, not retinal cells, but other cells in these choroideremia patients, and in the patry (ph) disc, it does cure the disease, they make the normal protein that the retina needs.

PINSKY: So, is this some sort of viral carrier that inserts itself into the genetic structure of those retina cells?

MAGUIRE: That`s correct. It`s basically a neutered virus where a gene is spliced into the virus. And, it piggy backs the normal gene into the cells. The patient cells make the protein for the rest of their life, hopefully.

PINSKY: Now, Dr. Maguire, that seems to me is something that would help someone who is developing the condition. What do we do for E.J.?

E.J. SCOTT: Yes.

PINSKY: He wants to know.


MAGUIRE: Good question. Well, a lot of the -- first of all, the earlier treatment, the better, of course, because we`re trying to rescue cells, and if they`re not there, we can`t rescue them. If they`re completely gone, then we move on to other techniques like stem cell therapy that`s being developed. Most of the choroideremia patients --


PINSKY: I want to know -- is there some way to reverse the protein build up in the cells that he has to improve his vision or is it really just about arresting the progress?

MAGUIRE: It`s mainly arresting the progress. I mean, you see that E.J. seems to function quite well, and the choroideremia patients are amazing in how they`re able to function with what little vision they have, and most of -- everybody would like them to have better vision, but certainly we don`t want them to have any less vision than they do.

PINSKY: Now, E.J., you actually met the seven-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, before the race. We saw a little bit footage of that. Now, he had heard about E.J.`s effort to raise money for choroideremia research and wanted to -- he actually reached out to E.J. and wanted to meet him. So, take a look at this.


ARMSTRONG: A marathon, you`re doing 12, but it`s one of these things where people, if they do one in their life, they feel like they`ve done something. And, it could be a marathon, it could be the ironman or triathlon or, essentially, bike ride. All these things --

E.J. SCOTT: That started (ph) with me -- I did my first marathon in 2010 in Chicago. And I never thought I`d do another.

ARMSTRONG: This one`s hillier than that one.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes. I`m sure it is. But I did that one, I was like I really did something. Maybe I can do something more.

ARMSTRONG: Yes. Absolutely. So, you decided to do 12.

E.J. SCOTT: It was catchy. It was like 12 in 12.

ARMSTRONG: What`s next? Maybe, you know, 52 in 52.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes, yes, Tour de France.



PINSKY: I know Lance very well myself, and he`s a very cool guy. And he really is intent on getting behind these kinds of things. Must have been cool for you.

E.J. SCOTT: It was very cool for me. You know, and thinking about it, he`s done so much just one person becoming such a figure in the cause that he`s working on. I`m not even -- if I can make it a fraction of the way that he`s had impact, that`d be amazing.

PINSKY: It would be great. I mean, he`s just had a huge impact.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes.

PINSKY: Well, next up, we`re going to look at where E.J.`s races will take him. Find out after the break.


E.J. SCOTT: This is Dr. Drew`s team?



E.J. SCOTT: Oh, hey, how is it going? Are you running with me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s carrying the camera and running at the same time. Pretty impressive.

E.J. SCOTT: Twenty-one miles to go, buddy!



PINSKY: Back with me, E.J. Scott, who is battling a genetic eye disease called choroideremia which is slowly causing him to go blind. We`ve also been joined by Dr. Albert Maguire who`s been researching this disease for several years.

E.J. run a marathon this past weekend blindfolded, and people may ask why you`re blindfold. Mostly to protect you from the sun, because that will accelerate your injury.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes.

PINSKY: He did this to raise money and awareness for the Choroideremia Research Foundation. Now if our viewers are interested in helping out, there are a couple of places you can go, check out. EJCureCHM.blogspot -- is that right?

E.J. SCOTT: I have a blogspot on blog about all my races and there`s a PayPal there that they can donate.

PINSKY: All right. So, I`m going to say it again,, or to donate. It seems like you`re making some progress. You`re getting some traction here.

E.J. SCOTT: Oh, yes. I`m trying, and thanks to you, you know, and having me on. It`s nice to be getting some attention. I got some nice local attention in Austin, some newspaper, radio, TV. Every little bit helps, you know?

PINSKY: And Dr. Maguire, I`ve got to spend a minute or so left with you. Retinitis pigmentosa is a close relative, really thought of in the same sort of group as this choroideremia. Is E.J. really helping raise awareness about these kinds of eye diseases?

MAGUIRE: Absolutely. Choroideremia is a special type of retinitis pigmentosa. And, we feel that getting traction with choroideremia will translate into developing treatments for these other conditions which are very similar.

PINSKY: And also very common. I guess, maybe 50 to 100,000 people have RP, while choroideremia being a subset has a much smaller percentage, but there`s a lot of people are affected by these kinds of retinal diseases.

MAGUIRE: Oh, absolutely.

E.J. SCOTT: They take over families, too. I mean, my brother`s got it. My nephew`s got it.

PINSKY: You have someone on your chest that`s got it.

E.J. SCOTT: This is my favorite shirt.

PINSKY: Camera, guys, -- there he is. Get zero in on this thing.

E.J. SCOTT: This is my favorite shirt.

PINSKY: Bring it in.

E.J. SCOTT: These are my nephews.

PINSKY: There we go.

E.J. SCOTT: And this guy right here, he`s got the disease, and this guy right here, he may. We haven`t tested him yet.

PINSKY: But you`re protecting his eyes just in case.

E.J. SCOTT: We`re protecting his eyes. Number one uncle, referring to me, which is a 100 percent accurate.


E.J. SCOTT: I do it for them. I`m running for these guys.

PINSKY: I`m asking crazy questions. You have to think about genetic testing and that sort of thing when you decide to have kids? Or genetic counseling I should say?

E.J. SCOTT: If I have boys, they`ll be OK. If I have girls, they`ll likely be carriers.

PINSKY: Because it`s an X-link disorder.

E.J. SCOTT: Right. Right.

PINSKY: So, you got - you`re homozygous or you`re X/Ys. You --

E.J. SCOTT: Yes, yes.

PINSKY: So the boys get it, and then women become carriers.

E.J. SCOTT: Yes. My mom is a carrier. My aunt is a carrier.

PINSKY: Like color blindness. Very similar to that.

E.J. SCOTT: Right. My sister is also a carrier. My grandfather was blind. We assume that his mom was a carrier. They didn`t really discuss it too much. Didn`t know he had choroideremia, he thought he had RP.

PINSKY: They may not have distinguished back then.

E.J. SCOTT: Probably not. Probably not.


E.J. SCOTT: It was a long time ago.

PINSKY: E.J., I wish you the best. I really do.

E.J. SCOTT: Thank you. Can I just say real quick?

PINSKY: Please.

E.J. SCOTT: My next marathon is Los Angeles.

PINSKY: OK. You got a date?

E.J. SCOTT: March 18th.


E.J. SCOTT: And I`m trying to do a fundraiser in each city that I`m going to, a comedy fundraiser, and it`s going to be March 30th, eight o`clock at Second City here in Los Angeles. It`s going to

PINSKY: What day of the week is that?

E.J. SCOTT: It`s a Friday.

PINSKY: I would like to go.

E.J. SCOTT: Please come. Please come. Thanks a lot, Drew.

PINSKY: Appreciate it. Appreciate it. All right. Thank you, Dr. Maguire also for being with us tonight. We will closely be following up with E.J. at some of these upcoming marathons. I`m going to the comedy thing on March 30th, right?

E.J. SCOTT: Yes.

PINSKY: Mark is going to write that down. I want to thank you guys all for joining us tonight. It`s been an interesting program. And again, I will see you next time.