Dr. Drew Is Wrong

Posted: May 17th, 2009 | Filed under: alcohol, cocaine, drugs, heroin, media bias, opiates, tobacco | 23 Comments »

Drew PinskyDr. Drew Pinsky is a celebrity doctor who has doled out medical advice on the radio for over 25 years. He is now a media franchise and has become the nation’s popular expert on addiction with his television shows Celebrity Rehab and Sober House. Unfortunately, several of his proclamations are wrong.

Willpower Does Work

Pinsky is a champion of the disease theory of addiction. In his words, “Addicts have intense neurobiological patterns in the brain that have a grip on them, and willpower doesn’t work.” (Hochman)

Studies have found the legal drug nicotine to be the most addictive substance. Yet roughly half of those who have ever smoked have quit without treatment. The percentage of former heroin, cocaine, and alcohol addicts who have quit without professional assistance is even higher. (Peele, p. 1)

As Dr. Stanton Peele, an addiction expert, explains, “an enormous treatment/recovery industry, backed by a large government bureaucracy” insists on perpetuating the myth that curing addiction cannot possibly take any route but their own. (Peele, p. 2)

The Damage Dr. Drew Causes

“Disease” centered treatment helps many people, however, by damning any other route to stability Dr. Drew does a great disservice. A 1996 study that tracked subjects in outpatient alcohol treatment found that “belief in the disease model of alcoholism” was one of two primary factors in predicting relapse. (Peele, p. 38)

This is common sense. If you brow beat someone into thinking they are a life-long addict with no will power is it surprising that they are more likely to behave like someone with no willpower?

Dr. Drew and Artie Lange

The addiction theory is an attractive concept to addicts as it excuses their actions and frees them from responsibility. But one addict who is not buying it is Artie Lange of The Howard Stern Show. (Read post about Lange’s addiction here.) On a Pinsky appearance on The Howard Stern Show (1/12/09) Pinsky said of Lange, “You have to see Artie as a heroin addict. Everything’s bullshit.” Lange responded re Pinsky’s rehab shows, “You wanna be famous and you’re exploiting people to get there.” Later adding, “[Pinsky’s] taking advantage of the biggest fuck ups in LA right now …. They’re not getting proper treatment.”

Lange has recently devised a new program for himself to stay off heroin which involves exercise and keeping two ex-cops by his side. Dr. Drew called Lange’s plans “self-will run riot” and said that as long as Lange is calling the shots for himself he will fail. Dr. Drew said Lange needs a six-month spiritual program of recovery and that his life depends on it. (Dell’Abate, 5/7/09) Lange was infuriated about this damnation and questioned Pinsky’s motives revealing that Lange had been offered $250,000 to do three weeks on Pinsky’s show, Celebrity Rehab.

Other Dr. Drew Myths

“Heroin addiction has a worse prognosis than cancer.” (Dell’Abate, 1/12/09) – A study of heroin users found the annual death rate to be 1%. Taken out of the criminalized context, in a three year heroin maintenance program with over 1,000 patients no one died.

“One out of ten heroin addicts beat it.” (Dell’Abate, 1/12/09) – I do not know Pinsky’s source but drug abuse studies are almost always skewed in that they focus on people in treatment. (Imagine how alcohol would be portrayed if all media and research coverage was of those in rehab.) One study that was drawn from a more general population of users was that of heroin addicts returning from Vietnam. Very few received treatment, and yet after leaving Vietnam only 12% continued to be addicted. (This cannot be attributed to availability as six in ten of those addicted in Vietnam used a narcotic after returning.) The relapse rate was actually higher for veterans who were treated for their addiction than those who were not.

If my kids ever did heroin I would load up their car with heroin and call the cops. (Dell’Abate, 1/12/09) – This claim led Lange to call Pinsky a “bullshitter.” I too question whether Pinsky would want his son to be imprisoned for years as a dealer and burdened with a criminal record so that every future employer would know about it. (How would George W. Bush and Barack Obama turned out if their relatives took the same tact with their cocaine use? LINK) As a public defender I saw many people who viewed drug use as a criminal matter quickly change their minds when their loved one was the one facing prison time.

“That part of the body wasn’t made for doing [anal sex], and I dread to see what will happen to these women down the line …. it won’t be pretty.” (Hochman) – According to Dr. Jack Morin, an expert in anal health, there is “no convincing evidence” that safe and responsible anal sex causes disease. (Morin, p. 223) In addition, the sphincter is a muscle and stretching it is no more damaging than stretching exercises are to any other muscles in the body.

More recent post on Dr. Drew Pinsky: Did Dr. Drew Lie About His Drug Use?


  1. Robert Arthur, You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos (2008).
  2. Gary Dell’Abate, The Howard Stern Show, Sirius XM Radio.
  3. David Hochman, “Playboy Interview: Dr. Drew Pinsky,” Playboy, 1 July 2008.
  4. Jack Morin, Anal Pleasure and Health (1998).
  5. Stanton Peele, Seven Tools to Beat Addiction (2004).

23 Comments on “Dr. Drew Is Wrong”

  1. 1 Adam Carolla said at 11:41 am on June 19th, 2009:

    Uhhh you can defend Anal Sex all you want, but do me a favour, google image search “prolapsed anus.”

    Guess what causes that? Yup.

  2. 2 Adam Carolla said at 11:42 am on June 19th, 2009:

    Sorry. I meant to say, google image search “rectal prolapse.”

  3. 3 Administrator said at 8:39 pm on June 28th, 2009:

    Adam Carolla, do me a favour and look up the term, “anecdotal evidence.”

    Being able to show a gruesome picture of an auto accident does not warrant telling people not to drive.

    Yoga practitioners do not live in fear of muscle tears, similarly anal sex practitioners do not live in fear of rectal prolapse. It’s not what you do but how (responsibly) you do it.

    Rectal prolapse can also be caused by old age, child birth, and frequent straining during defecation.

  4. 4 Yeah said at 2:09 pm on July 9th, 2009:

    Straight, married, female anal sex fan here… Quoting someone I put more faith in, when it comes to sex, than an “addiction doctor”—Dan Savage, in response to Dr. Drew’s assertion about anal sex:

    “Dr. Drew isn’t a homophobe. He’s an asshole-o-phobe?and a BDSM-o-phobe, a premarital-sex-o-phobe, a three-way-o-phobe, etc. Basically, when it comes to human sexuality, there’s not a lot of daylight between Dr. Drew and Pope Benedict XVI. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: Odds are good that your ass is going to leak when you’re old, anyway?I’ll betcha the pope’s ass is leaking all over the throne of St. Peter right now?so you might as well enjoy it while you can.”

  5. 5 Duh said at 2:28 pm on October 10th, 2009:

    “According to Dr. Jack Morin, an expert in anal health”

    You’re seriously citing Jack Morin, who has no medical background whatsoever*, to discredit an actual medical doctor? Oh wait, this IS a blog about recreational drug use… Nevermind.

    * Per dead-tree publisher Harper-Collins: http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/6901/Jack_Morin/index.aspx

  6. 6 Administrator said at 10:39 pm on October 12th, 2009:

    I am citing Dr. Jack Morin. He is an expert by virtue of writing an entire book on anal health that is recommended by “actual medical doctors.”

    Here is Columbia University’s “Go Ask Alice!” on anal sex. “Go Ask Alice!” is run by Columbia University’s health professionals.

    Anal sex enthusiasts can relax (a good thing to do during anal sex!), because contrary to what you heard, anal sex does not loosen the anus or cause an inability to control bowel movements.


  7. 7 Dead Trees said at 6:18 pm on October 15th, 2009:

    Okay, this site seems to eat my replies at random. Sorry about the censorship accusation. :)

  8. 8 Dead Trees said at 6:12 pm on October 15th, 2009:

    Are you censoring my replies now? Well, that tells me all that I need to know about you and your thoughts.

    By the way, just to rub it in…

    “AA: Yea, just don’t poop near my mouth. Do you know how many times I’ve shit my pants from doing anal? And any girl who says she hasn’t is lying.”
    Interview with pornstar Andi Anderson

    “Regular anal sex leads to internal sphincter dilatation and soiling.”
    The ASCRS Textbook of Colon and Rectal Surgery? (2006) – Page 654

    “Sphincter stretch for anal fissure or manual dilatation as a treatment for hemorrhoids (e.g., Lord’s procedure) may be associated with fecal incontinence, probably on the basis of injury to the external as well as the internal sphincter. Obviously, internal sphincter stretch, even when properly performed, must inevitably produce stretching of the external sphincter also.”
    Colon and Rectal Surgery (2005) – Page 349

    “The main long-term complication of all sphincter-damaging procedures is some degree of fecal incontinence. Anal stretching, known as Lords procedure, has long been advocated as a therapy; it is still practiced. The anus is digitally dilated over its full length using up to six fingers. This procedure leads to an uncontrolled fragmentation of the internal sphincter; consequently, it should no longer be a therapeutic option.”
    Integrated Medical and Surgical Gastroenterology? (2004) – Page 390

    (You can look up the book refs with Google Books)

  9. 9 Administrator said at 6:22 pm on October 31st, 2009:

    Dead Trees, I apologize for the “eating” of your comments. The multiple links got them caught in the spam filter. I appreciate your researched input, however, I still think Dr. Drew is grossly exaggerating when he implies bad things will happen to all those who engage in anal sex.

    The question is not IF anal sex can cause bad things but how much of a risk is there.

    I, the medical professionals at Columbia (see my prior comment), and (from your eaten post) the medical professionals at Duke believe the risk is very low when done RESPONSIBLY. Here is Duke’s quote:

    Although the threat of fecal incontinence from anal sex is small, it can occur from repeated injury to the internal sphincter. LINK

    Lastly, the following study found no anal incontinence in its 14 anoreceptive subjects so that porn star’s experience is far from universal, LINK.

    In an effort at full disclosure, here is a study that has shown a correlation between anal sex and “risk of incontinence.” LINK Even its authors still believe the risk is tiny:

    It is unlikely that anoreceptive subjects will abstain from [anal sex] because of a small risk of future anal incontinence …

    On a side note, the study’s authors then proceed to suggest … poppers?

    … but the use of agents to relax the anal sphincters prior to penetration might reduce the risk of injury and subsequent incontinence.

  10. 10 Anastasia Buitron said at 12:09 am on November 19th, 2009:

    My questions:
    Who are you?
    Why would one spend so much time hating on someone unless they were somehow emotionally involved…? :/
    Plus, taking quotes and spinning them is pretty easy to do.
    Nobody is perfect. Not even you. We all have our opinions and they are able to change with time so please stop spreading hate on the internet :)

  11. 11 Administrator said at 12:57 am on November 19th, 2009:


    Who am I? I don’t really know. I ask myself that question frequently.

    I wouldn’t say I’m “hating.” I believe I avoided making personal attacks. Disagreement does not equal hate.

    I wasn’t spinning anything. Dr. Drew has held these positions publicly for a long time.

    I was a public defender so I represented drug “criminals” and spent a lot of time at the prison. I am emotionally involved because I saw the collateral damage of the war on drugs firsthand. Dr. Drew’s sensationalist fear mongering feeds that war.

    I would be more testy about anal sex if the US Supreme Court hadn’t halted states like Texas from prosecuting those “criminals” in 2003.


  12. 12 Anarchist said at 10:50 pm on November 19th, 2009:

    Just to be clear Dr. drew doesn’t take a don’t do it stance. The conversation almost always goes like this:
    Idiot caller: “how can I make it hurt my girlfriend less. We have tried and she won’t cause it hurts.”

    Dr. drew: ” you can make it stop hurting buy not doing it. Pain is your bodies way of telling you that some thing is bad for you. If something hurts don’t do it.”

    I have heard him say many times that if it you can do something safely and it works for you then go for it but the calls that loveline get are the ones after something has already gone wrong.

  13. 13 MMR said at 9:20 pm on January 7th, 2010:

    Even after using all the appropriate techniques, anal sex is still very painful for me. I am a healthy female and I was open-minded about anal sex. I felt that since everybody seems to go on and on about it like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, I didn’t have anything to lose by trying it.

    I relaxed, etc… and after attempting it at least 6 times (not in the same day-of course) I decided to call it quits. NOTHING should hurt so much!!! Fingers, toys, penis, nothing worked. My husband was very careful about it, and IMHO there just isn’t enough lube in the world to make it a pleasant experience.

    The most important thing to remember is that not everything feels the same to everyone. If you had a girlfriend who enjoyed anal sex, do not expect every woman in your life to enjoy it.

    And remember, nobody likes to hear someone whining like a little kid. If she says no, just leave it at that. And if she says yes, don’t whine about using a rubber.

    Before I met my husband, I had some dork boyfriend who thought he would “slip it in.” He had asked me if I was interested, and I said I would have to be lubed up and ready, but I was still not very experienced and wasn’t ready to go beyond vaginal sex at that time. Then, (just a few days later) he tried “jamming it in” while we were in the doggie style position (what can I say-I trusted him). Then he acts like it was an accident. This is why he became an ex-boyfriend.

  14. 14 Dorothy said at 3:10 am on January 26th, 2010:

    ew you’re little essay is so0o0o beat

    ///just jealous of dr. drew ew

  15. 15 Cornelius said at 8:58 pm on January 30th, 2010:

    Dr. Drew is an exploitative scumbag. He might be the biggest bullshitter in today’s public eye, or media. Howard needs to re-sign, or strike a deal with Sirius, so he can get Drew’s daughter on the Sybian someday.

  16. 16 Scott said at 1:24 pm on February 27th, 2010:

    So, uh… how’s that theory of yours working out about Artie Lange? Apparently his life DID depend on getting in to some kind of therapy. He tried to kill himself a couple months ago.

  17. 17 pete said at 9:45 am on March 6th, 2010:

    if you want to stop drugs, u fucking will. if u dont then plan on dying motherfucker. come on drew its the truth. dont suck up to ppl that have problems. u do try a whole lot but some ppl dont give a shit. u helped out a lot of ppl but not everybody. u did coke younger and i feel sorry because ppl use it against u but u aint doin it now so u guess recovery does work in a way. im just saying how fucking AMERICA works. right????

  18. 18 Administrator said at 3:07 pm on March 6th, 2010:

    Scott, I never claimed that Artie Lange could not use therapy. Lange himself acknowledged that. I, like Lange, disagreed with Pinsky’s assertion that he needed a “spiritual” program or that he has an addiction “disease.”

    I believe that for Lange, as with many drug addicts, heroin usage was a symptom of mental health issues – not the cause of them. Lange first attempted suicide in 1995. He first used heroin in 2005.

  19. 19 holland said at 11:30 pm on March 16th, 2010:

    artie lange tried to stab himself nine times because of untreated addiction…self will run riot. your studies prove nothing more than quitting is easy, which is true, staying quit and living a meaningful and fulfilling life without a spiritual program is near impossible- stabbing yourself nine times is self will run riot, be careful what you print, people die everyday from statements like yours

  20. 20 yonnie said at 8:36 pm on September 17th, 2010:


    Most people who have quit drugs have quit WITHOUT the use of a spiritual program. Dr. Drew only cares about $$$.

  21. 21 Em said at 10:03 pm on August 1st, 2011:

    I suppose that a person with PSTD, say, a War Veteran or Child Abuse Survivor, who experiences flashback, dissociated ego states, anxiety, depression, guilt, and lonliness, if they self injure or attempt suicide, or become addicted to a substance, are examples of ‘self will run riot?’

    I would say they are experiencing the well documented aftereffects of trauma, and in the case of those traumatized in childhood, of being stuck in various developmental stages.

    Dr. Drew’s problem, besides his exploiting people for his own purposes on Celebrity Rehab, is that he puts forward 12 step ideas as though they are the only way. The truth is that many people can benefit from evidence based treatments, various therapies, and to lump everyone together and assume that everyone needs the same thing is a mistake.

    Although he does seem to care about people, and, aside from enjoying money and fame from what he does, may genuinely want to help, nonetheless you cannot ethically treat people if you have an alternative motive. Such as requiring drama in your TV show. It is deliberately set up for conflict and emotional outbursts etc.

    I doubt this is the situation in good rehabs, I hope it isn’t at least.

    He makes diagnosis and pronouncements about people he has never interviewed nor treated, which is unethical. And the lack of confidentiality in itself interferes with what is best for the clients.

    I think Dr. Drew is a mixed bag, like anyone else. But some of the things he says and does do harm people. Some help no doubt, but many do continue to perpetrate myths and all-or-nothing thinking regarding available treatment for those with addictions.

  22. 22 truthvera said at 3:59 am on October 27th, 2014:

    i like dr drew but i find on his tv show he is not always right. the problem is, the false information he is providing can be dangerous to people who believe it. he is more often right than wrong, but any dr should never give false information. a couple examples one episode he gave someone a flu shot and said they will not get the flu. this is false. they will not get that strain of the flu. several different strains exist and they even evolve over time. another issue he does not completely understand is drug addiction. willpower is a huge part of it. yes most drugs cause a chemical dependence in the brain. once the dependence passes, it is all psychological. people can have cravings for the rest of their life but at the same time you can have psychological cravings for anything that makes you feel good. sex, tv, internet, chocolate, etc. the trick is to grow out of it and find a healthy hobby to replace it. nicotine dependency is highly overrated. it is physically addictive but not even close to heroin. i dont know anyone who quit smoking and started vomiting, convulsing, or any of the other very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that heroin has. so many people get locked up for months then start smoking right when they get out. e cigs, nicotine patches, gum, none of them work very well. people like the habit of lighting up a cig and breathing smoke. i dont know why these smokers buy this bs government tobacco filled with dangerous additives when you can just grow your own clean pure tobacco for so much cheaper.

  23. 23 Sanem said at 4:21 pm on December 3rd, 2015:

    By James Dalton 2 December, 2007 – 22:53I love anal hurt a little at first.. but not now.. My fnerid Chaudhary has an o.k penis.. its a good size.. so i dont mind anal too much on the pain side.. :D