Dr Phil

Celebrity TV host faces claims of fueling addictive behavior to gain ratings

Dr. Phil is well-known for hosting addicts on his show and offering help and treatment suggestions. Now details are emerging that the show might be further harming patients as they appear on air.

In an investigative report by Stat News, they tell the story of Todd Herzog, a winner of Survivor. Apparently he was so drunk when he appeared on the “Dr. Phil” show in 2013 that he had to be carried onto the set and lifted into a chair.

“I’ve never talked to a guest who was closer to death,” show host Phillip McGraw declared on camera.

TV viewers, however, didn’t see the setup for this shocking scene. Herzog, who was battling alcoholism, told STAT and the Boston Globe that he was not intoxicated when he arrived at the Los Angeles studio. In his dressing room, he said, he found a bottle of Smirnoff vodka. He drank all of it. Then someone handed him a Xanax, he said, telling him it would “calm his nerves.”

America’s best-known television doctor presents himself as a crusader for recovery who rescues people from their addictions — and even death. But in its pursuit of ratings, the “Dr. Phil” show has put at risk the health of some of those guests it purports to help, according to people who have been on the show and addiction experts.

“Dr. McGraw has a very strong sense of trying to not exploit people,” a spokesman said in an earlier interview. “Now it is a television show. These people volunteer to come on. They beg to come on. And he tries to treat them with respect … and to give them the opportunity to get help if they want to do that. It’s not a complicated formula.”

But in interviews, show guests and their families described a different reality.

Guests confront a painful and potentially dangerous detox as they wait up to 48 hours in hotel rooms for their scheduled taping, leading some to look for illegal drugs. One guest bought heroin with the knowledge and support of show staff, according to a family member. Another guest, who was pregnant, was filmed by a show staffer while searching for a dealer on Skid Row in L.A.

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To read more about how Dr. Phil might be helping to feed his guest’s addictions, please visit Stat News.

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