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Doctor Charged with RX Pill Deaths
Aired March 5, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go. Is a physician responsible for patient deaths because she may have overprescribed painkillers? She has been charged with murder.
Then, would you commit a crime to save the well-being of your child? A mom and dad who say they did just that are here.
And Lindsey Lohan on "SNL". How did she do? We`ll check it out.
Let`s get started.
PINSKY: Thank you for joining us this evening.
And tonight, we`re doing my favorite kind of television. It`s live, live. Starting off with a southern California doctor who remains behind bars, charged with murder. The three alleged victims were in their 20s.
Now, we`re going to explore whether they perhaps died from prescription pill overdoses. Watch this and then we`ll talk about it.
PINSKY (voice-over): The prosecutor calls her Dr. Feelgood, and says she overprescribed Xanax, methadone and others to patients, three of whom died. All young were men believed to be healthy. Her real name, Lisa Tseng.
She was arrested after undercover agents posed as patients with pain problems.
REPORTER: We`re talking about intent here and malice?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re talking about intent and malice. We`re filing under a second degree -- it is for secondary murder. It`s under what they call an implied malice.
PINSKY: According to a DEA affidavit, Tseng wrote more than 27,000 prescriptions in three years. That`s about 25 a day. More than a dozen patients have stepped up and are alleging they receive multiple prescriptions for pain pills. They survived.
It`s rare that a doctor is charged with murder in such cases. The state will have to prove that Dr. Tseng knew there was no legitimate need for the drugs but prescribed them anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the first case we have filed against a doctor charging murder for over-prescription of drugs. As you know, we have prosecuted cases charging involuntary manslaughter, most recently, Conrad Murray in the Michael Jackson case, but this was a little different. This involves multiple victims.
PINSKY: Dr. Tseng told "The Los Angeles Times" two years ago, "If my patient decides to take a month`s supply in a day, then there`s nothing I can do about that."
The ultimate question: does a doctor have control over what a patient does with medication?
We are going to dig deeper into the doctor`s responsibility. But first onto my guests. Joining me are two mothers who alleged that Dr. Tseng played a role of the death of their teen sons. But neither young men was directly under the care of so-called Dr. Feelgood.
Sylvia Melkonian lost her 17-year-old son Mark to a prescription pill overdose.
Jodi Barber`s son Jarrod was 19 when he died from a pill overdose.
And, of course, Bob Forrest joins me, a recovering addict and counselor on "Celebrity Rehab."
Jodie, you hold the Dr. Tseng responsible for your son`s death. Tell me about that.
JODI BARBER, HER TEEN SON, JARROD, DIED OF RX OVERDOSE: I don`t hold her completely responsible. I feel like she aided and abetted towards my son`s death.
PINSKY: Tell me your son`s story. What happened?
BARBER: He was taking Opana. And the Opana did not -- it came from a friend.
PINSKY: Opana is a long acting opiate, oral opiate, again, a painkiller.
BARBER: That`s the painkiller.
PINSKY: It`s like taking heroin by mouth.
BARBER: Exactly. It`s a hundred times worse than OxyContin, and it`s only supposed to be used for terminal cancer.
And kids in my area were driving 45 miles to see Lisa Tseng to get it.
PINSKY: So, kids knew they could get this drug from her if they went and said what? Do you know what they were saying to her?
BARBER: A broken wrist, you know, just pain, aches and pains.
PINSKY: I have a headache.
BARBER: They were in and out of her office in five minutes or less.
PINSKY: Five minutes. And what would they leave with?
BARBER: They would leave with 90 Opana, Xanax, Soma, whatever they asked for basically.
PINSKY: And, by the way, you mentioned three drugs when used together will result in a Whitney Houston style outcome as far as I`m concerned.
PINSKY: Those things are not to be prescribed together, certainly not in big doses. That`s for sure.
BARBER: That`s right. She overprescribed, as well as prescribed deadly combinations.
PINSKY: And, Sylvia, in your case, what happened?
SYLVIA MELKONIAN, HER TEEN SON, MARK, DIED FOR RX OVERDOSE: Well, my young son that passed away is 17 years old. And --
PINSKY: I got to tell you something, we`re glossing over the fact there are two young boys dead here. I mean, that`s so easy to forget about that fact. I mean, the outrage is about this doctor, but the real pain in the story is that two young lives are needlessly gone. I`m sorry, Sylvia.
MELKONIAN: Yes. And, you know, Mark never had a problem with any type of drugs. I never had a problem with my son at all with any addictions or problems or drugs or anything. But he knew and all his friends knew Dr. Tseng. Everybody in the whole community knew Dr. Tseng.
In fact, I have another son who had been going to Dr. Tseng for many years and so many people have gone to Dr. Tseng.
PINSKY: He developed a medicine problem, a pill problem?
PINSKY: So, your other son -- aren`t you concerned for his safety?
MELKONIAN: I am constantly worried for his life, you know? I think that history is going to repeat itself again, and I know that he`s in constant danger. And he told me that he went directly to Dr. Tseng, he would go in there, and ask Dr. Tseng for pretty much anything, and she would give it to him.
She never did any workup. She never did any follow up, and she would basically give him just a myriad of anything he wanted.
PINSKY: I understand one of you actually went in, I think, after your son`s death and confronted her. Jodi, was that you?
BARBER: I did.
PINSKY: And what happened?
BARBER: And it wasn`t just after my son`s death. It was after like - - I said, he never went to her directly, in directly, he got the Opana from her. So I --
PINSKY: You went in there, what did you say?
BARBER: So, I went in with six scripts from her in one week`s time. And --
PINSKY: You got them from her?
BARBER: No. It was another mother who gave me her son`s scripts.
PINSKY: I see.
BARBER: So I went right into her office. I waited there in the lobby. When the door opened, I walked through and saw her there.
And I walked in there, approached her, and I said, why are you giving out these scripts to these kids? I said, my son passed away because you gave out Opana to his friend, now he is gone, as well as his other friends, they`re all gone. And why are you prescribing these pills to these kids? I have here Opana, 90 Opana. I have Xanax and Somas. And I said, these are deadly combinations.
She said, don`t come to me. It`s the parents` fault.
PINSKY: Oh my God. As if you hadn`t lost enough.
Now, my understanding, your attempt to educate teens and parents about the dangers of prescription drugs and pills, you co-produced a documentary. It is titled "Overtaken."
We have a piece of it. Take a look this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son was 19 years old when he passed away January 8th.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could take it all back, I definitely would. This is probably some nasty places I would never want to be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighty percent of people I started getting loaded with are either dead, in jail, or still out there doing it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost control. Basically, I was failing all my classes. I wasn`t showing up for family events. And to me, the biggest thing I lost was myself.
BARBER: My son will never have the chance to celebrate his 21st birthday. He`ll never have the chance to have a girl friend, never had a girl friend. Will never have the chance to get married, have kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: These are really sad stories. And, Jodi, your son actually I guess liked "Celebrity Rehab"? Is that right? Or do you tried to show it to him to impress upon him how bad it could get?
BARBER: Yes, I did.
PINSKY: Yes, I brought Bob Forrest in, I knew this history there. Bob is here with me.
And, Bob, I mean, this is something we`ve been dealing with forever.
BOB FORREST, FOUNDER, BOB FORREST COUNSELING SERVICES: First off, you have two brave, courageous moms, wanting to stand up against this machine that`s killing our kids.
FORREST: Right? And I`ve been working on you. Not just a few rogue doctors, Drew, this is widespread across southern California, at every street corner, urgent cares, little pain management clinics.
PINSKY: Boy, you know, Florida, New York has got problems. I mean, it`s all over the place.
And listen, everyone, there`s certain doctors, if you say certain things, they say who am I to say the person wasn`t in pain, because even if they aren`t as you think --
FORREST: Between you and I, it`s like as if the musicians were being attacked.
PINSKY: But, listen -
MELKONIAN: This doctor was not even a pain specialist.
PINSKY: She`s an osteopath, right? She was a general practitioner. Right.
But the pain specialists scare me, too. I mean, I must tell you, because they liberally use this stuff and never tell you --
FORREST: Young people, what can be so wrong they need these die from cancer drugs, really?
MELKONIAN: Just reckless.
BARBER: The thing about it, they`re so addicting, and now I deal with so many, so many parents now who are struggling with their addicted kids. And a lot of them did go to Lisa Tseng, they`re still alive, but they`ve -- almost died several times, and they`re still here though.
She is the cause for so many addicts in my area.
PINSKY: And, Bob, my point is this -- and this is the part you and I differ on a little bit, a little bit, which is that as physicians, we may not be rogue and just making money off milling people through. I mean, those exist and it appears what this story is.
PINSKY: But why aren`t we more sophisticated on -- our job is to help the patient, not blame the patient. Why can`t we identify who the addicts are, confront it, refer it, deal with it, as opposed to pulling our pad up. I`ve said to Bob many times, and I`ll say today again. I`m going to say to my viewers here.
As physicians, we have three things we can do. We can cut, we can fill out our prescription pad, and use our relationship to create a dynamic that changes people, through education, through the relationship itself. Those are the only three things we have.
And the relationship -- gone. The system does not allow us to use our relationship.
So, doctors are out there going -- I don`t know, I have been trained on this, this isn`t the priority, we have all this good pain medicine. Let`s just do that.
I have to take a break. Sylvia and Jodi, I really thank you for sharing this story. We`re going deeper into it. We`re going to talk about the responsibility of doctors, when they prescribe these pills that lead to death. And I`ll give a chance for Bob to sound off a little bit more.
So, stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost control. Basically, I was failing all my classes. I wasn`t showing up for family events. And to me, the biggest thing I lost was myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBER: My son won`t have a chance to celebrate his 21st birthday. He`ll never have the chance to have a girlfriend. He never had a girlfriend. He`ll never have the chance to get married. Have kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: You know, I have to react. Again, we`re live tonight.
But addiction is a deadly illness. We just cannot get that through to people. And people want to blame the patients for their illness and never has it been more deadly than now, when these pharmaceuticals that are so powerful, so wonderful if you have cancer pain, end of life issues, so dangerous if you have addiction -- devastatingly dangerous.
And we as physicians have to be on our guard, have to be ready for that all the time. If we inadvertently trigger it, then deal with that if you trigger the addiction, get them treatment.
What you just saw from the documentary "Overtaken," coproduced by a mother who lost her son to prescription pill overdose. That mom, Jodi Barber, is here with me now. Also, Sylvia Melkonian. Her 17-year-old -- am I pronouncing your last name, right?
MELKONIAN: That`s correct.
PINSKY: OK -- died from prescription pill overdose.
Both women alleged the same southern California doctor, Lisa Tseng, played a roll in their death.
Bob Forrest is still with us, recovering person himself, counselor in "Celebrity Rehab."
Sylvia, Dr. Tseng is behind bars tonight. What do you want to happen to her?
MELKONIAN: I want to get her to get the death penalty.
PINSKY: Oh my goodness.
MELKONIAN: I wish she was going for first degree murder, but a second degree. So, I want her behind bars for life.
PINSKY: Now, she remains behind bars. She is charged with three counts of second degree manslaughter. She is charged with three counts of second degree manslaughter. These counts do not relate to the death of either Jodi or Sylvia`s son.
And we talked to Dr. Tseng`s attorney early today. He provided a statement we must read.
Quote, "Charging a physician with murder is highly unusual. We asked that judgment is reserved until Dr. Tseng has had her day in court."
Well, that`s fine from a legal stand point.
But from the standpoint, Bob, of what we`re seeing, it`s an emergency. Somebody is going to die. Not somebody, hundreds are going to die today.
What -- go at me again. What were you saying?
PINSKY: I`m not excited enough about this?
FORREST: Why does a 21-year-old kid need cancer death medicine for? They`re overprescribing it. They`re prescribing it everywhere. It`s ridiculous. Our young people are dying.
Every time we come in with a story like this, like Ohio. It`s not 56- year-old people. It`s 20-year-old people. It`s kids who don`t know better. During the experimental phase of addiction, they don`t even know better and they`re dying.
Somebody has got to do something, whether it`s government regulation, whether it`s get the message out. I love that these mothers want to get on television.
I want doctors to hesitate when they prescribe Oxycodone. I want them to think like, "Wait a minute, this kid is 20 years old."
That`s what I want.
MELKONIAN: Bob, you know what the growing statistic is? It is between kids that are 13 and 17.
PINSKY: That`s where the greatest growth in prescription pills is. You`re absolutely right. That`s where we`re losing ground the fastest. Yes.
MELKONIAN: Yes, absolutely. And that is completely wrong. At that age, you know, they`re not even developed really. I mean --
PINKSY: But I tell you what? Exposing the brain, a developing brain to these kinds of powerful drugs at that age may -- I can`t say this for sure -- but my experience has been, it creates more severe addiction, more chronic, more difficult to treat, with poor prognosis and as we see, worse outcome.
Bob, how much more --
FORREST: The traditional way in my generation, 13, 14, 15, a seeker of that sort of thing, it`s the liquor cabinet. Now, it`s the pill cabinet.
PINSKY: But I`m going to say this. You made a point several times that you go and look at the drug addicts of yore, who`s still with us, compared to now, the ones that get to the pills. Tell us that.
FORREST: It`s unbelievable. It was shocking to me. Before Oxycodone came on the market, there was about 3,500 annual opiate overdose deaths in the United States, 3,500. I felt like I know 400 of them. It was crazy that the number was that low.
That number has doubled and doubled until you approach 20,000 a year, and mostly young people.
PINSKY: If you were speaking to Dr. Tseng now, what would you want her to know about your son? What would you say to her?
BARBER: I would just tell her that she was partially the cause of my son`s death as well as --
PINSKY: Her recklessness?
BARBER: Yes, recklessness, and hundreds more, hundreds more.
PINSKY: In that same vicinity, there were other --
BARBER: In that same vicinity, yes.
FORREST: Four hundred in Orange County they were saying.
MELKONIAN: The last three years.
BARBER: It was last four years, it`s been over 400 fatal overdoses in Orange County.
PINKSY: And you think she is somehow directly or indirectly --
BARBER: Everywhere I go, wherever I go, there`s somebody that says they know her. It`s pathetic. And I called her --
PINSKY: Is she the only one? As Bob has been saying, do other doctors need to be --
BARBER: There are other doctors out there. And --
PINKSY: What do you need to tell them, what does a doctor need to know to understand, to identify, to not blame the patient or blame the parents? I mean, the doctor is having the temerity to blame you for your son`s death. It makes me vomit.
BARBER: And I was the person -- and I told her this. I said I know my son, it`s his choice that he made, but you`re the professional.
These doctors are the professional. They went through all the schooling for a reason. They know better. They know that an 18-year-old doesn`t need, you know, terminal cancer or pills for this type of thing. I mean, they`re deadly combinations that they`re prescribing and they don`t care. They don`t care. It`s just --
PINSKY: They don`t care or they don`t know, Bob? I keep saying they don`t know.
FORREST: They don`t feel responsible. They don`t feel responsible.
And I just put it back to the illicit drug market. When cocaine and heroine were coming over the border from the Felix brothers and the Baja cartel, we went after them, right?
FORREST: These drugs are coming from Walgreens, via Dr. Tseng, and via hundreds of doctors across southern California. We need to go after them.
PINSKY: Sylvia, if you were talking -- I know you`ve done a lot of work. Now, you`ve got a son that you`re worried about. To moms out there that might be relating to the story, what`s your appeal to them? What do you say to the moms? That`s really where your --
MELKONIAN: I think the problem with prescription pills, it is not like drinking. You can smell the alcohol. It`s not like pot, you can smell the pot, you can smell the cigarettes, you can see those signs.
It`s so hard to see the signs when they`re taking pills, you know? And the kids are having skittle parties and they`re taking pills. I mean, they`re getting pills in school just like passing out gum.
PINSKY: Did you have a hint of trouble before disaster hit?
MELKONIAN: Not from Mark. I did not.
PINSKY: No hint.
MELKONIAN: You know, I thought maybe he was starting to dabble in pot. In fact, he promised me he would never do drugs.
PINKSY: Ladies, I have to break. That`s scary. That`s scary. But I would say, first of all, thank you for sharing your story. I am -- our hearts and prayers, we deal with this all the time.
We are here -- if we can help support you, educate people, that is our desire here today. Boy, I mean, if there`s a hint, I would say, take action.
Next, I`m going to speak to an attorney who`s representing six families who filed civil suits against Dr. Tseng.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People, who have never done a drug in their life, take one drug, and we`re talking about drugs that with one use can alter your brain chemistry, to where you have to have that drug, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That was from the documentary "Overtaken." It was co- produced by a mother who lost her teenage son to a prescription pill overdose.
And I would remind people, again, we`re live tonight. And my staff in the studio are asking a very important question, about if doctors are milling through something like this, how do they make money?
They don`t make money by prescribing. They make money by the office visit. And by the same token, you can`t refer, it`s not as though the doctor can own the pharmacy or own anything they refer to, that`s against the law, too. So, it`s just from milling people through.
As you heard these moms say, five minutes office visit, massive prescription for a very powerful opiate.
Joining me to continue the conversation, I have Mark Eiglarsh. He is a criminal defense attorney. Larry Eisenberg is an attorney representing six families who have filed a civil suit against Dr. Tseng.
Larry, tell us about this lawsuit. What is it alleging?
LARRY EISENBERG, CIVIL ATTORNEY: Yes, Dr. Drew. Basically, I represented five families for civil cases for wrongful death against Dr. Tseng. Now, the complaints alleged medical malpractice for wrongful death, for outrageous conduct. But we`ve also filed different causes of action under the California Drug Dealer Liability Act, and also I allege the doctor`s conduct is really a conscious disregard of health and safety of the patient.
PINSKY: Now, Mark, you are a defense attorney. So, is there a defense for this? Or how would you approach that? Or do you have any specific feelings on this case?
MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I do. I have very strong feelings.
First, my heart goes out to the guests that you had on. Obviously this doctor played a role in their children`s tragic death.
And doctors like this are unfortunately not uncommon. I live here in southern Florida, the pill mill capital of the U.S. And these stories are everywhere.
So, her conduct clearly is abhorrent. The only argument that I would is one of a legal nature, and that is that this case should be charged as a manslaughter, as opposed to a reckless homicide. To call it a secondary murder.
Again, it`s a legal argument --
PINSKY: Why, Mark? Why? Why? It seems reckless.
EIGLARSH: I know. And that`s an emotional reaction. Recklessness requires a willful and wanton disregard of human life or property.
Negligence or gross negligence -- is it reasonably foreseeable the way she`s behaving might cause the death of someone? The reason why most prosecutors go with negligence is the same principle of what Aristotle defined as justice, like cases being treated alike. It falls short of reckless conduct, clearly is negligent. The appropriate charge is manslaughter.
And again, I`m not negating her guilt. I`m simply talking about we appropriately charged people in each --
PINSKY: OK, got it. Got it.
And, Mark, I`ll need your help later in the hour. So, please stay with me.
Larry, I got 20 seconds for you to respond that.
EISENBERG: Well, he is talking about the criminal standard. On the civil side, wrongful death for money damages for the families. Clearly, the conduct was reckless, it was outrageous.
Now, if you look at the criminal side of it, there`s implied malice --
PINSKY: Ten seconds.
EISENBERG: Because she knew, she knew or should have known what her conduct was and what it led to. She`s totally linked to at least 12 deaths that I can document. It`s outrageous.
PINSKY: Guys -- thank you, Larry. I appreciate it. Thank you, Mark. We`re going to be watching this very closely.
And coming up, would you break the law to help your child? We`re going to talk to a mom and dad that did just that for their 3-year-old son.
And next, your comments and calls. Talk to us 24/7 at HLNTV.com. We love hearing to you. I will put calls into the next segment.
So, stick around. Got those answers, coming up.
PINSKY (voice-over): Coming up, a three-year-old boy with brain cancer, unable to eat and wasting (ph) away is given cannabis oil, marijuana, and illegal substance. His mom says she snuck it into his feeding tube without the doctor`s permission. A couple of weeks later, he was seemingly better, laughing and able to eat. His mother and father are here to tell us why they broke the law which they are fighting to change
But first, your questions and comments about Lindsey Lohan and her appearance on NBC`s "Saturday Night Live."
LINDSEY LOHAN, ACTRESS: You know, this studio feels like a home to me.
LOHAN: Wait, so the alarm goes off if I leave the stage? I thought it was only if I left the studio. I thought you guys trusted me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, how is it going?
LOHAN: Hey, Keenan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. So good to see you again. I forgot how beautiful your eyes are.
LOHAN: Thanks, Keenan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I see them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Can I see your eyes, please?
LOHAN: You know --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s good.
PINSKY (on-camera): That is very funny, I thought. The reviews are mixed, but millions watched Lindsay Lohan make fun of herself on NBC`s "Saturday Night Live." I think if I read right, it was their highest rated show of the year, and people had all kinds of feelings about her performance. So, here`s some of what you, guys, think.
Rachel on Facebook writes, "She was off, out of it, had a weird, bloated look. Poor thing isn`t ready for a come back quite yet."
Tracy writes, "Personally, I thought she was just OK. Not like her old stuff."
And then, I`ve got finally Rita who says, "I thought she did great and looked really well, and I hope she continues to keep getting better."
So as you see, the critics agree. Critics agree. She did a bad job and a good job. That`s Fantastic, everybody. So, I`m not quite sure. I think she was a noble effort anyway, and I hope everyone enjoyed watching her. First half of the show, everyone agreed was funny, and it`s funny to see (INAUDIBLE) of herself.
So, let`s get back to more serious stuff. I`ve got Irene in Wisconsin on the line. Irene, what is your question.
IRENE, WISCONSIN: Hi. At my school every year, there`s girls having babies, they`re 14 and 15-year-olds.
PINSKY: Irene, how old are you?
PINSKY: Eighteen. Do you try to reach out to these young girls and talk to them?
PINSKY: Go ahead.
IRENE: They keep having kids.
PINSKY: I know they do. Irene, I`ve done a show called "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" specifically to address this issue. I believe, and this has been my experience, I`ve been working with young people for 20 years, and I`ve been working with them through media, and I have seen the biggest impact is when they see people like themselves doing the things that they think are cool and not having great outcomes.
In other words, getting pregnant and how much their lives unravel. That is opposed to me sitting here in a white coat telling them what they ought to do which tends to be dead on arrival. It doesn`t do anything, really. Irene, are your peers do anything to try to address this?
As usual, these kids are at risk. They have other things going on in their life. Do people help them, support them? Do anything try to do with this?
IRENE: They just don`t care about their kids, and it`s like what?
PINSKY: I know. Well, Irene, this is your chance to put a message out there. What is your message for kids that are thinking about having kids?
IRENE: Just don`t have kids. Do what you have to do, just don`t have kids.
PINSKY: Grow up first, right?
PINSKY: Yes. Irene, thank you for that call. I mean, when I used to do "Love Line" with Adam Carolla, we always said the biggest problem with this country is screwed up kids having screwed up kids. Wait until you ready to have a kid. It`s not going to solve any problem. Again, I feel very strongly about the "Teen Mom" series showing you that.
Raquel on Facebook asked, "Is it better to have a child live with a father who`s an alcoholic, or without a father at all?" That is a tough question, actually. I mean, it`s not as though I have a single answer for that that blankets every situation. Generally, it`s better for the father to be there, even if the father has illness, but if they have illness, you`re going to have to do work.
There`s one thing I might got to tell you is that treatment works, that`d be treatment for the alcoholic father. Obviously, I`ve seen some glorious recoveries, and father in recovery from alcoholism. Even if it`s later in the child`s life can have a massive impact on that child, and the child themselves will need some sort of help dealing with the fact that their dad is an alcoholic.
And again, I would say father in the life provided that you take action and get help with having the fact that somebody`s got an illness in the family like any other illness.
We got Nancy on the line from Michigan. Hi, Nancy.
NANCY, MICHIGAN: Hi, Dr. Drew. I am trying to get some help for my 16-year-old.
PINSKY: All right. Go ahead. Yes. Go to it.
NANCY: I`ve got some spice and smoking pot and stuff going on.
NANCY: They generally say that you can`t prove it.
PINSKY: What do you mean (INAUDIBLE) they can`t prove it. You`re the mom, you can actually have him held in psychiatric hospital just by saying there are behavior problems. I mean, spice is a dangerous drug. Listen, you remember the story with Demi Moore?
Demi Moore is alleged to have been using spice, the kind of seizure activity she had, the confusion. We see that from spice. Have you seen any changes in his behavior and personality? Nancy?
PINSKY: Is he coming in the house now? Is that what`s happening?
PINSKY: Your son has walked in the room while having this conversation live on TV. This is awesome. Why don`t you ask him to leave the room right now, you`re on private call? Can we do that? Let`s practice a little parenting here. Nancy? You won`t ask him to leave the room?
NANCY: Can you take a hike for a minute?
PINSKY: You`re on a private call. You`re entitled to a private call, Nancy. This is it.
PINSKY: There were go.
NANCY: I`m on the phone, can you leave for a minute?
PINSKY: There you go.
NANCY: Thank you.
PINSKY: Nancy --
NANCY: Excuse me.
PINSKY: Here`s the deal. Listen to me, you don`t have to say any more. I understand you`re in an uncomfortable situation. You are live on national television, fantastic. But, here`s the deal, you`re the parent. Get help. If you have any access to resources, take him to your doctor. He`ll refer you to mental health professional.
Use the school. The school is your asset. The fact that you -- I mean, just tell you something. This is what you need to know, Nancy. If you take nothing else away from this, this is what you need to know. If you are aware that there`s a problem and it seems somewhat desperate, I guarantee you what`s happening is ten times worse than what you know.
You must get help with this or you`re going to end up like poor Sylvia and Jodi here. This is really serious stuff. I guarantee you, whatever is happening, it`s worse than you think. And by the way, the fact that he`s smoking spice, which is a dangerous, we don`t know the full potential on adolescent brain is enough to say I need help.
Do not go this alone. Get help. Nancy, I`m going to let you get off the line. Thank you very much.
I`ve got a note from Bobby who has this to say. "On your recent program with Tom Arnold, you`ve seemed to be against Suboxone treatment and said, "I can`t get anyone off opiates in a week." I`m desperate to know how you can do that. It seems the only therapy offered in Michigan is Suboxone."
Here`s my problem with Suboxine, excellent drug. I don`t have any quarrels (ph) with it when it`s used properly. My concern is that it starts getting used like there`s just a new methadone. And I know people are advocating methadone treatment. Basically, Suboxone should be used just to taper people off and they help detox people.
My statement was, I don`t need that drug. I have other things that can use to get people off opiates. It works fine. We`ve been doing it for years. It takes about five to seven days. The Suboxone withdrawal ends up being about the same in my experience anyway, not all that different.
But the problem is they keep people on Suboxine, and they get strung out on that drug, and that`s what I get upset about. That`s a concern. And that drug is now starting to have a problem, and I think that`s contributing to the prescription drug deaths we are seeing. That`s my concern with that.
Next up, want you to meet the parents who broke the law to help their little boy who was diagnosed with brain cancer. They actually went so far as to there they are with Tommy Chang (ph), how about that -- who smuggle in, guess what, cannabis. But it seemed to help, and if it helped, should there be a problem with that? We`re going to talk about that from many perspectives. So, please, do stay with us. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HYDE, FATHER OF CASH HYDE: I watched Cash not be able to eat for over 40 days to the point where he couldn`t lift his head up off his pillow. I realized along the way in this journey that there is a quality of life that a lot of people do not have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Welcome back. And as I`ve said, we are live tonight. Nothing like live television. We talked to somebody on the phone, and the person you`re talking about walks in the room, and there you go. We are having issues tonight with our Skype. I hope we will be talking to these people in just a second.
Two years ago, little Cash Hide was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. Endured bouts of chemo that made him sick, made him ill. He didn`t eat 40 days and was vomiting severely. As his parents watched helplessly as many have, they made a crucial decision. They asked doctors to take Cash off anti-nausea and his pain medication and secretly gave him marijuana oil, cannabis oil made from marijuana.
What they did was illegal. In addition, they didn`t tell his doctors. Today, three-year-old Cash is in remission and doing well.
Joining me to discuss this, Dr. Stuart Gitlow, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, also criminal defense attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, and Bob Forrest back with me in case we continue to have Skype issues, because I have Cash`s parents, Mike and Kalli Hyde on Skype. Mike, how is cash doing these days? How is he doing? There you are.
PINSKY: Oh, it`s not sounding very good, though, I must admit. You guys listen to what the conversation we`re going to have, and I`ll let you ring in. I may have to put one of you on the phone. Again, live television. I love it. I hope everyone else does.
Dr. Gitlow, let me go to you. What issues do you have with this family feeling desperate, doing what they felt they had to do to create a quality of life intervention on behalf of their child?
DR. STUART GITLOW, PRES. AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ADDICTION MEDICINE: Well, Drew, thank you very much for having me tonight. The issues here come down to what does a family do when their son has a critical illness, and they feel as if they have no alternatives left? How are they going to deal with that and cope with that?
The issue as they start to use something like marijuana is the question of to what lengths do we go to protect our children? Do we go to the length of picking a schedule one controlled substance that has no known medical qualities to it? The analogy --
PINSKY: Let me interrupt you and just say, I mean, if it`s just for quality of life and we`re using schedule one drugs like opiates, like painkillers, what`s wrong with this schedule one drug if it helps somebody feel better?
GITLOW: Well, we`re not talking about quality of life here, we`re talking about trying to save a two or three-year-old. This is an issue where the goal would be for him to have a normal life and a normal length life.
PINSKY: Let me ask the parents what they were thinking when they went ahead and did this. Guys, was it just because you got tired of seeing him suffer and you wanted him to feel better?
MIKE HYDE: I watched Cash several times after the doctors gave him Benadrine and fentanyl (ph). I watched my son suffered for over 40 days, starving to death, and (INAUDIBLE). The medications are highly toxic. Medical cannabis or cannabis, whatever you want to call it (INAUDIBLE)
PINSKY: OK. Guys, guys, the connection here is barely discernable. Let me keep saying if they technically can help with that, because I do want to talk to your wife in a second. My understanding is she`s an RN. And I have a question, let me ask to you, Mark. My issue with this, more than anything else, Mark Eiglarsh is, we have an RN.
She has a license. She understands how hospitals operate. She`s found a medication that helped her, let`s say, helped her sister, made me feel good, and she walks in the hospital and just gives it to somebody because it worked for them. Is that how hospitals should operate? Or do you share my concerns, Mark?
MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. This is a tough one. First of all, even they know and they`ve admitted publicly that what they`re doing is unlawful. No question they`re violating federal law. But let me just say this. If we`re talking about my child and I was told six to seven times, you know, we`re going to stop doing this because there`s nothing more that we can do to save him, I would try whatever it took to get even an hour more with him.
Now, it turned out, it worked, and the California Medical Association supports to some extent this concept of giving THC. In one study, 25 to 30 percent of mice rejected the cancer after they had been injected with THC. So, again, we`re talking about mice, and it hasn`t been, you know, widespread approval amongst the medical association, there is an indication that it might work.
PINSKY: Dr. Gitlow, let me go back to you. Let`s say it is a quality of life issue and it is a terminal case. Do you share my concern? It`s not, again, so much about making the child comfortable, it`s that somebody brings in a substance from the outside while kids under care. The doctors don`t know.
I mean, who knows how the care could go bad if people just start administering their own drugs, illicit or illicit to somebody in a hospital. Isn`t that a concern?
GITLOW: Well, let`s go back for a second. I don`t think that this demonstrates that the drug worked. What it demonstrates is that Cash got better at about the same time that he was administered marijuana. So, this is an experiment with one person being tested, and basically, what we have is an individual who was given multiple other types of treatment who got better at about the same time that he was given the marijuana.
That doesn`t mean the marijuana led to his improvement. It means he got better at about the same time.
PINSKY: Right. And Mike, you`re on the phone, I think, with me now. Can you hear me OK?
MIKE HYDE: I can hear you fine. What I would like to say to that guy is I pulled Cash off the Ativan, Zofran, methadone, morphine, Oxycodone, OxyContin, Ketamine, (INAUDIBLE) two-week period with medical cannabis. After he had been over for 40 days --
PINSKY: Mike, but maybe that alone is what made him better. You know what I`m saying?
MIKE HYDE: Exactly. And if I wouldn`t have made those doctors wean him off those drugs, he would have died.
PINSKY: OK. Let me talk to your wife for a second.
MIKE HYDE: These doctors are killing our children. That is the difference we`re talking about. These kids are given -- who would give a kid morphine?
PINSKY: I get you. Let me talk to Kalli. I get you. Let me talk to Kalli for a second. Listen, they`ve got a child who`s in a -- has advanced cancer, on life support. They`re trying to make him comfortable. They`re not trying to kill anybody. Kalli, let me talk to you. You`re an RN, right?
KALLI HYDE, MOTHER OF CASH HYDE: Yes. This is Kalli.
PINSKY: OK. Kalli, do you understand my concerns about people coming into the hospital, just administering substances, illicit or illicit, without the team`s involvement? You know what I mean? You work in hospitals. It can really make things unravel if the team is not there taking care of the patient.
KALLI HYDE: Yes. I do understand the controversy with, you know, coming in and giving Cash, our son, you know, cannabis. But you know, he was laying there dying, shaking, shivering, his skin was peeling. He was vomiting every two hours. He was vomiting, you know, --
PINSKY: Let me ask the question, Kalli -- again, let me ask you the question a different way. Let`s say you had medication X, Y, Z, and it`s legal. You describe that same scene to us. You just bring that from the outside and give it because you wanted your child better no matter what. You go to any length, even if it means upsetting how hospital functions. Is that what you`re saying?
KALLI HYDE: Exactly. Yes.
PINSKY: OK. OK. Hold on one second, Bob --
KALLI HYDE: These doctors are, you know, they`re killing our children. This --
PINSKY: Hold on. We weren`t there. Listen, people are trying to do their job. The child is better because of proton beam and chemotherapy, we know that, too, because that they could expect. Yes. And then, all the other stuff made him sick, it sounds like. Bob, your point.
BOB FORREST, FOUNDER, BOB FORREST COUNSELING SERVICE: Well, the thing is, I love hearing him laugh in the background and he`s alive, and it`s a baby and it`s wonderful, and to politicize this is what`s really being done, you know? I`m just happy he`s alive. I, too, agree with the father that, you know, the list of drugs that he`s on compared to medical marijuana --
PINSKY: OK. Fair enough.
PINSKY: No, no. I`m not saying that. I think everybody wants this child better. It does not --
PINSKY: Thanks for joining us. Again, we are live. This is an important conversation. We`re speaking with Mike and Kalli Hyde. They are parents of a three-year-old who`s currently in remission from a brain tumor. Mike and Kalli gave him marijuana oil, cannabis oil, after Cash almost died after chemotherapy.
Dr. Gitlow, you say the potential for this -- I`m going to try to get everyone to ring in on this. You say the potential negatives here are substantial. How?
GITLOW: Marijuana is dangerous, Drew. The bottom line is that in the developing brain, it causes problems with attention, with focus, with concentration, and with long-term cognitive abilities. We don`t want to see children administered a drug that`s going to cause them to, bottom line, not be smart later in life. The stereotype of the burned out marijuana user is not there for no reason.
PINSKY: Mark, I want to get your take on this. You`ve heard the conversation. Any more thoughts?
EIGLARSH: Yes. Death is dangerous. This kid was dying. This wasn`t a first resort. This was a last resort. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and while I`m not advocating parents introducing THC as a first resort to their children, in this one instance, they were literally watching their son dying, and prosecutors can use their discretion in a case like this and not necessarily have to bring charges.
PINSKY: And bob, you`ve said that we politicize this drug too much, and Mike is being political in this. I`m going to give him last word, because he is in the situation, and we are lucky enough to have the child with us.
Mike, I do want to give you the last words, but I try to have conversations about marijuana without it being political, because there`s such energy around it. We can`t -- both sides can`t be rational. I want us all to be rational about it. Help us. I`ve got a minute.
MIKE HYDE: I understand that. I understand that. All I can say is we went through 30 rounds of proton radiation, and Cash, he did not use one nausea or pain medication. Cannabis is a patented neuro protected and antioxidant. Every cancer patient has the right to that. Cash survived the water stock (ph), yes.
Cannabis is along our journey, and I truly question the ethics and the morals of any doctor that can say the cannabis is dangerous. There is not one proven death to cannabis. You want to talk dangerous, talk about a kid on morphine, talk about a kid on Ketamine or oxycodone or Dilaudid or Ativan. I replaced all those drugs with cannabis oil.
PINSKY: Mike, I`m going to stop you. I`m going to stop you. I`m running out of time. Our prayers stay with you, my friend. I`m just so glad your child is doing better. Whatever it took, my friend, congratulations.
Dr. Gitlow, I want to go back out to you. Desperate times, desperate measures. I got about 30 seconds. I`m having trouble talking about this with people. I think we have to keep the conversation going. I want to thank you for joining me today. You`re an important figure in addiction medicine. I really hope you`ll join me again. Can you put a little coda on this for us?
GITLOW: The coda is that there`s no such thing at this point as medical marijuana. Marijuana has not yet been shown to have an acceptable medical use, and until we study it properly, we won`t know the bottom line answer as to whether or not to use it or some form of it.
PINSKY: More study. More study. I think that`s one thing all sides will agree upon, yes?
FORREST: The idea is the debate continues. This has been a great hour, I think.
PINSKY: It`s been a good conversation. Thank you all for joining us. Thank you to Kalli and Mike. I really appreciate you sharing your story with us. Thank you, Dr. Gitlow. I`m a huge fan of yours, by the way. Thank you for joining us, Bob. I will see you again soon enough.
PINSKY: I got to go. Thanks for joining us. See you next time.