Dr. Philip McGraw’s highly popular daytime television show about recovering drug and alcohol addicts has been accused of supplying at least one of its recovering addicts with drugs and alcohol.
In a lengthy joint investigative effort by STAT and the Boston Globe, several individuals who previously appeared on Dr. Phil accused the CBS show of failing to secure adequate medical attention and supervision before their appearances.
Todd Herzog, a former winner of the reality TV series Survivor and a recovering alcoholic, told STAT/The Globe that he had detoxed in his hotel room for two days and was completely sober before arriving at Dr. Phil’s Los Angeles studio for a taping.
But Herzog claimed he found a bottle of Smirnoff vodka in his dressing room, and promptly drank the whole bottle. Later, he alleged, someone provided him a Xanax to “calm his nerves.”
During the episode, Dr. Phil administered a Breathalyzer test to a visibly intoxicated Herzog, who had to be helped into his chair by staff members. He blew a .263, or more than three times the legal limit for driving. The host said he had “never talked to a guest who was closer to death.”
In an interview with STAT/The Globe, Herzog acknowledged that the show had helped him to seek treatment but criticized the production for allegedly putting his life in danger.
“You know, I get that it’s a television show and that they want to show the pain that I’m in,” Herzog said. “However, what would have happened if I died there? You know, that’s horrifying.”
In statements to the paper, Martin Greenberg, the show’s director of professional affairs, denied Herzog’s claims, calling them “absolutely, unequivocally untrue.”
Meanwhile, a woman named Marianne Smith claims a Dr. Phil producer directed herself and her heroin-addicted niece Jordan, who was a guest on the show in 2012, to downtown Los Angeles’s Skid Row neighborhood to buy drugs as she was struggling with withdrawal, and accused the show of failing to provide Jordan with medical supervision during the detox process. Another woman, Joelle King-Parrish, accused the show of failing to provide medical attention to her pregnant, heroin-addicted daughter Kaitlin when she was a guest in 2016.
Greenberg denied the show had ever provided alcohol or drugs to its guests or directed them to where they could find drugs, and defended the program as one that helps its guests battle addiction.
“Addicts are notorious for lying, deflecting and trivializing. But if they are at risk when they arrive, then they were at risk before they arrived,” Greenberg told STAT/The Globe. “The only change is they are one step closer to getting help, typically help they could not have even come close to affording.”
A spokesperson for the show also issued a statement calling any claim that the show provides alcohol or drugs to its guests “errant nonsense.”
“For the past 16 years, the Dr. Phil show has provided valuable information to viewers by telling compelling stories about people who are fighting the battle to overcome alcohol and drug addiction,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, addicts often lash out at the very people who are trying the hardest to help them break the cycle of addiction. Although terribly unfortunate, this is an understandable part of the behavior of addicts on their journey to recovery.”
“Deception, dishonesty and denial are hallmarks of addiction. It tears families apart and certainly creates levels of complexities when we produce these important shows. None of this will deter the Dr. Phil show from it’s commitment to continue to educate and inform the public about the worsening epidemic of addiction.”
McGraw did not comment for the article.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum