One former guest, and two other former guests’ families have accused the Dr. Phil show of allegedly obtaining alcohol and drugs for the struggling addicts.
In a lengthy piece for STAT/Boston Globe, former Survivor winner Todd Herzog detailed shocking allegations of his multiple appearances on Dr. Phil to treat his alcohol addiction. Dr. Phil director of professional affairs Martin Greenberg denied all allegations in STAT/Boston Globe‘s story, saying in a statement that the claims are “absolutely, unequivocally untrue.”
Herzog, 32, first appeared on the show in 2013 as the result of a surprise intervention by his family, who contacted Dr. Phil for help with his alcohol addiction. The show flew him to Los Angeles from Utah and put him up in a hotel, where Herzog says he detoxed over a few days. Herzog told STAT that when he arrived to the studio to film his episode, he was sober; this was confirmed by his father, Glen. But he alleges that a liter-sized bottle of vodka was left in his dressing room, which he drank. He also claims someone gave him Xanax to “calm his nerves” before the show.
When he went onstage to meet Dr. Phil in front of the live studio audience, he was so intoxicated that he had to be carried out and sat down in his chair. “Today, I had an entire bottle, like a liter, of vodka,” he told Dr. Phil McGraw during the episode. Dr. Phil breathalyzed him onstage and he blew a .263 — more than three times the legal limit to drive in the United States. “You know, I get that it’s a television show and that they want to show the pain that I’m in,” Herzog told STAT. “However, what would have happened if I died there? You know, that’s horrifying.”
Greenberg said that Herzog was “medically supervised the entire time he was involved with tapings of Dr. Phil.” That supervision, according to Greenberg, included a nurse-practitioner flying with him to Los Angeles for the taping, a nurse sitting with him during the night at the hotel, and “a medical professional from a treatment center who happened to be in LA at the time.” None of the medical personnel were named. Greenberg later came back to STAT with responses to follow-up questions and clarified that, “We mean 100% of guests agreeing to treatment. It does not mean that a guest is being monitored 100% of the time…substance abusers adopt very clever means” to obtain alcohol or drugs, and “we cannot control what we cannot control.
“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 said in the statement. “The only change is they are one step closer to getting help, typically help they could not have even come close to affording.”
Marianne Smith‘s niece, only identified as Jordan, appeared on the 2012 episode “Young, Reckless, and Enabled” after she contacted the show for help breaking the young woman’s heroin addiction. According to Smith, she, Jordan, and Jordan’s mother came to Los Angeles from out of state, and Jordan was going through heroin withdrawal. Panicked, Smith and her sister reportedly told a show producer that she needed heroin, and they allegedly told them to go to Skid Row. Smith cannot remember the producer’s name.
Smith claims that there was no medical supervision for Jordan in case of withdrawal. “We never had anyone,” she told STAT. “It was just the three of us girls the entire time.” Greenberg denied this story, as well: “We could go on and talk about Jordan L. or ten others,” he said. “Same reality. All had medical supervision.”
Joelle King-Parrish brought her daughter, Kaitlin, 28, to Dr. Phil in October 2016 for help with her heroin addiction. At the time, Kaitlin was six months pregnant, and King-Parrish said she was under the impression that there would be medical supervision when they arrived in Los Angeles. If she were to go into withdrawal, it could hurt her baby.
When she did start to detox, King-Parrish asked Dr. Phil staff for help; they reportedly told her to “take care of it.” She took Kaitlin to the hospital, but the pregnant woman refused treatment, despite her mother, doctors, and a show producer’s insistence. Terrified that Kaitlin and the baby could die without medical intervention or heroin, they went to Skid Row with a Dr. Phil staffer. This trip was documented by the staffer, whose filmed footage later appeared on the episode.
The footage shows Kaitlin walking toward homeless encampments, and disappearing for about 30 minutes; King-Parrish said she was shooting up heroin. In the video, King-Parrish tells the camera, “I am scared to death right now.” Greenberg defended the video, saying that the staffer, “simply documented the natural behavior she observed, which would have occurred whether she was there or not.” He stated that Dr. Phil only agreed to do Kaitlin’s story if “her mother agreed to be 100% responsible for managing her daughter’s health and possible withdrawal.”
During the episode, Dr. Phil promised Kaitlin “the best help, in my opinion, in the United States,” and that she would be in treatment until her baby was born. Unfortunately, Kaitlin left rehab against medical advice after just 15 days. Her baby was born addicted to heroin, and was placed into foster care.
“The treatment facility is not a locked ward, and she is a hard-core heroin addict. That’s what they do,” Greenberg said in his statement. “We deal with people in the real world.” When King-Parrish wrote the show condemning them for allegedly only helping Kaitlin for ratings, they had her on again. The show sent her to treatment again, but she was kicked out for noncompliance. She is now homeless, according to King-Parrish.
Herzog resumed drinking after his first appearance on the show, and appeared three more times. On the third episode in 2014, he claims that there was a bottle of vodka once again in his dressing room. He said that he only drank some of it. The show denies that there was vodka left in his dressing room. Herzog’s last appearance on Dr. Phil was in 2016. He said was serious about getting sober and wanted to be put in treatment.
This time, he was under the care of a handler who supervised him closely. Herzog said that the handler gave him a shot of alcohol to hold off seizures from withdrawal. He doesn’t remember the appearance, but on the episode he’s brought out onstage in a wheelchair and suffers some form of medical distress. He’s thankfully clean and sober now, and has turned his life around.
“I’m grateful in a lot of ways for the show. For getting me help in the nicest places in the country. That’s a gift right there,” he said. “There are some things about the show that I don’t like, and that I don’t think are real. … I should have been in the hospital, in that sense. There should not be liters of vodka in my dressing room.”
Greenberg told STAT regarding their article that, “few people contact us just to let us know how well things are going. The fact you can ‘cherry pick’ three, or thirty, or three hundred guests for that matter, who seek to blame others for their plight or struggle in life, is not the least bit surprising.”
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