Sketchy Things About Dr. Drew That Everyone Ignores

Dr. Drew Pinsky has become more of a television personality than a doctor, but he still loves reminding the world of his roots in medicine. He got his start on Loveline in 1995 as the soft spoken, better-informed foil to Adam Carolla. Since then, he's built a small empire for himself as a mild-mannered television doctor, an opinionated talking head, and a seemingly well-meaning addiction specialist. But there's a disconnect between Pinsky the personality and Pinsky the person. Here are a few shady aspects to the doc's public life.

A lot of Celebrity Rehab castmembers have died

At the time of this writing, a total of six castmembers of Celebrity Rehab have died since the show first aired in 2008. Real World alum Joey Kovar and Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr both died of overdoses in 2011. Grease star Jeff Conaway passed away the same year due to complications from a "major internal infection." Rodney King, the man whose beating by police sparked the L.A. riots of '91, drowned in 2012. Autopsy results showed PCP, cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana all contributed to the drowning, with the coroner noting that King was "in a state of drug and alcohol-induced delirium," which led him to either jump or fall into the pool where his body was found. In 2013, country singer Mindy McCready committed suicide, and in 2016, wrestler Chyna died, with those close to her suspecting an overdose of prescription drugs.

His reaction to those deaths was self-serving

After McCready's death, media reports pointed out that a lot of people from his reality show had died. Pinsky released a statement that sounded more like self-defense than grief. "I am deeply saddened by this awful news. My heart goes out to Mindy's family and children. She is a lovely woman who will be missed by many," he told People. "Although I have not treated her for a few years, I had reached out to her recently upon hearing about the apparent suicide of her boyfriend and father of her younger children. She was devastated. Although she was fearful of stigma and ridicule she agreed with me that she needed to make her health and safety a priority. Unfortunately it seems that Mindy did not sustain her treatment."

"Mental health issues can be life threatening and need to be treated with the same intensity and resources as any other dangerous potentially life threatening medical condition," he said. "Treatment is effective. If someone you know is suffering please be sure he or she gets help and maintains treatment."

His celebrity clients still have a lot of issues

The Celebrity Rehab stars who complete treatment often don't fare much better once they leave. Shooter star Tom Sizemore struggled with addiction before and after he got clean on the show. The National Enquirer obtained video of the actor allegedly using drugs in 2013, three years after he was on Celebrity Rehab. He's also battled other demons, facing domestic violence charges in 2016 that could possibly land him three years in jail if he's convicted. Former beauty queen-turned-Celebrity Rehab starlet Kari Ann Peniche was accused of exposing her baby to crystal meth in 2012. Crazy Town founder Seth "Shifty Shellshock" Binzer relapsed in 2012, despite starring on Celebrity Rehab as well as Sober House. Also that year, Radar Online alleged model Brigitte Nielsen was "drunk and disorderly in public."

The reality show's executive producer, Jeff Olde, told The Daily Beast, "Not all of them make it. Not all of them stay sober and that is an absolute reality of people dealing with addiction. I've learned a lot personally about how the process works. The show does a real service by showing what the journey is like, how difficult it is, and how fragile it is." Olde added, "Like Dr. Drew says, 'You have to fight for [every one] of these people to make it and not all of them will. But if you don't fight for them and they don't fight for themselves, they definitely won't make it.'"

Experts say his methods aren't the best

Psychologists and addiction experts told The New York Times that even though Pinsky thinks he's genuinely helping his celebrity patients, that may not be the case. Clinical psychologist Jeffrey Foote, who specializes in the treatment of substance abuse, said "the velvet-glove confrontational stuff Pinsky does is what works for TV, but it's not what works for patients...the dramatic confrontations seen on the show are actually more likely to drive less-severe substance abusers, who are by far the majority, away from seeking treatment."

Dr. John J. Mariani, director of the Substance Treatment and Research Service at Columbia University, told the Times, "I think that if you waterboarded [Pinsky], he'd maintain that he's really helping people. The problem here is that Dr. Drew benefits from their participation, which must have some powerful effects on his way of relating to them. He also has a vested interest in the outcome of their treatment being interesting to viewers, which is also not in their best interest. Treatment with conflicts of interest isn't treatment."

He diagnoses stars he's never treated

Pinsky has often been criticized for attempting to diagnose celebrities he has never treated, just to increase his own profile. These stars include Lindsay Lohan (who called him a "quack" and a "sellout"), Michael Phelps, Miley Cyrus, Mischa Barton, Brad Pitt, Lamar Odom, Jesse James, and Sandra Bullock. "I thought real doctors talked to patients behind closed doors," Lohan tweeted (via E! News), making a valid point about doctor-patient confidentiality.

Pinsky retorted, via the Hollywood Reporter: "It's bizarre to me that you can have political commentators, sports commentators, weather commentators, but with medicine, people go, 'You can't do that.' It's like, if you show me a picture of a rash, I don't have to know the person to tell you what that rash is," he said. "There are lots of medical conditions that you can diagnose never having met the person. Soon enough, we'll have telemedicine and do it through the Internet—that's the future. You can educate people about politics, criminality, the law, but not about medicine? It's just silly...I really don't want to hurt anybody, but to say the truth and to offer words that might be helpful in understanding what some of these conditions are. I can't see any reason not to do that. That's changing things for the better."

He's used drugs before

Pinsky admitted on his HLN show (via Radar Online) in June 2015 that he dabbled in substance abuse himself, but that it was years ago. "I did drugs and alcohol when I was 22, 23 years old. I think I went around denying it when my kids were younger," he confessed. "There's a very strict parenting rule I have, which is 'you do not tell anybody what you did in your adolescence/young adulthood unless you want your kids to do the same.'" He added, "My kids just graduated from college so I can talk about anything right now. I did drugs––cocaine, alcohol, pot...[I] didn't like it that much." He continued, "When I saw people unable to stop...[I thought] 'Oh my God, this is something very different than what I experienced.'"

Some stars may have tried using Celebrity Rehab to stay relevant

Not all of Pinsky's Celebrity Rehab patients actually needed his help. Celeb manager David Weintraub admitted to The Daily Beast that he uses the show to boost the profiles of his predominantly D-list clientele.

"Dr. Drew went from being this doctor that I could count on, and, like, if my client got sick or needed something, he'd be there, to being the TV doctor, who is like, 'Make sure it's the right angle.' 'Let's make sure it's the right look.' 'I don't know if this is the right tone.'" Weintraub added, "Kari Ann Peniche popped. We've done a lot of s**t with her...She did three shows—Sex Rehab, Celebrity Rehab, Sober House; made a deal at VH1; and she just put out a record." His other clients include Celebrity Rehab and Sober House "stars" Seth "Shifty Shellshock" Binzer and porn star Mary Carey.

Salon notes, "Celebrities struggling with drug addiction are now thrown in with people like Rachel Uchitel (Tiger Woods and David Boreanaz's mistress, who was addicted to "love" in Season 4) and wildcards like Gary Busey (Season 3, who claimed to have been sober 13 years) and Daniel Baldwin (Season 1, who also said he was sober upon entering treatment)."

UPI reports that however desperate for fame some of the celebrities on Pinsky's show were, the program did reject some who didn't fit, like White House crasher Michaele Salahi in 2011. "The treatment program that Celebrity Rehab documents is intended for individuals with serious substance abuse and addiction issues. Prior to the taping of the current season, producers were advised that Michaele Salahi met the criteria to be treated in this setting," VH1 told the outlet. "However, professional assessments spanning from that time to the present, found that she did not meet such criteria. As a result, she is no longer participating in the program."

The show is heavily edited

Any TV show, reality or otherwise, is going to subjected to heavy editing to make for a good storyline. Unfortunately, for a series such as Celebrity Rehab, toying with plots can have dire consequences.

Case in point: Weintraub told The Daily Beast that for the sake of the show's ratings, producers "took Mary Carey, they put her in a room, and they said to her, 'Your story's s**t, Mary. Your story sucks on this show. We just paid you a lot of money, and your story sucks. [They told her], 'Here's what you need to do to make our show better. We call Dr. [Garth] Fisher, he's gonna remove your breast implants on the last week of the show, and you'll recover in the Sober House, and we'll show this complete transformation of you leaving porn behind by removing your boobs. And we have you set up, you're gonna manage a Starbucks.'" Weintraub said Carey refused to go along with that plan and called him in hysterics. He said, "producers edited the footage so it's not clear what, exactly, Carey is hysterical about."

Sex Rehab may have been bogus

Sex Rehab castmember Duncan Roy told The Daily Beast about his experiences on the show, and one morsel was particularly tasty: "It was immediately apparent that while Drew may be an astounding drug and alcohol specialist, he knows very little, or anything, about the precise science of sex addiction," Roy said. "More disturbingly, he does not believe in God, which is a fundamental prerequisite to any 12-step program. (He admitted to me that he is an atheist.)"

Roy also noted, that perhaps because of Pinsky's lack of sex addiction expertise, he had some help on the show from an actual expert on the topic, sex therapist Jill Vermeire: "He would recycle Jill's lines when he began to founder [sic]—and in the edited broadcasts, we see her thoughts and insights come out of Drew's mouth."

His non-celeb rehab center has issues, too

Even Pinsky's non-celebrity clients have recovery issues. Eyewitness News reported that in 2008, three patients in Pinsky's Pasadena, Calif. rehabilitation facility, the Aurora Las Encinas Hospital, died within five months. One of the patients was allegedly dead for a long time before anyone noticed, insinuating neglect on behalf of the staff; another reportedly hanged himself; the third patient obtained another's medication and overdosed. Additionally, a 14-year-old patient was allegedly raped by a 16-year-old patient. In a statement, Pinsky said, "I had no direct knowledge and no direct participation in the recent care of the patients in question."

He shades other TV doctors

Pinsky threw shade at Dr. Phil! In an interview with the The Huffington Post, Pinsky said, "[Dr. Phil] does good TV. Beyond that, I don't know. He's a psychologist who isn't even licensed to practice anymore. I'm troubled by the way the term 'doctor' gets thrown around nowadays, so much so that people don't even know exactly what a doctor is anymore...if they listen to my show, if they hear me speak, they'll be able to tell the difference [between us] pretty fast." Pot, meet kettle.

He was accused of being paid to promote pharmaceuticals

Pinsky was slapped with a federal lawsuit in 2012 alleging he was paid a total of $275,000 by GlaxoSmithKline to promote antidepressant Wellbutrin on his shows. Pinsky reportedly claimed on Loveline that the drug doesn't disrupt sexual arousal as much as other similar drugs. News of the suit broke just days after the pharmaceutical company paid a huge settlement for fraud allegations.

Pinsky denied the claims, telling CBS News, "In the late 90s I was hired to participate in a two-year initiative discussing intimacy and depression which was funded by an educational grant by Glaxo Wellcome. Services for the non-branded campaign included town hall meetings, writings and multimedia activities in conjunction with the patient advocacy group the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA). My comments were consistent with my clinical experience."

He was also accused of being paid to promote surgeries

Just months before Pinsky came under fire for his alleged dealings with Glaxo, he faced criticism for his promotion of weight loss surgery. The Los Angeles Times reported that 1-800-GET-THIN, a marketing firm for Lap-Band surgery, was the subject of a lawsuit from the FDA for allegedly misleading advertising and failing to disclose the risks associated with the surgery in their promotional materials. Pinsky was the voice for 1-800-GET-THIN radio ads.

When five people died from complications from Lap-Band surgery, Pinsky was eyed as a potential target for lawsuits. A lawyer for a deceased patient told the newspaper, "This has been an enormously powerful billboard and radio advertising campaign, the likes of which we've really never seen before. People have gone forward with these surgeries not fully recognizing the risks. Dr. Drew's endorsement certainly didn't clarify the risk of the surgery...Because he is a media personality, it may have given patients a false sense of security. The public is entitled to have a discussion with him about why he did it."

Instead of opting for the public discussions he typically loves to have, Pinsky told the Los Angeles Times, "As you may expect, I have a confidentiality clause in my agreement and am unable to comment at this time."

His own daughter thinks he's insensitive

Pinsky's daughter, Paulina, wrote a blog for the Columbia Daily Spectator (via Page Six) detailing her struggles with her own body image and bulimia. In one post from September 2013, she wrote that she was disheartened by the media coverage of a then-pregnant Kim Kardashian's weight gain. "I hadn't even completed my thought about how disgusting I found the media's emphasis on her weight gain...before my mother interrupted me: 'Yeah. She got ­really fat.' I...looked at my father...he just mumbled his medical opinion under his breath, saying, 'You know, it's very unhealthy for the baby to gain that much weight. Could be eclampsia.'"

He can be a bit of a hypocrite

One of Pinsky's pet projects is tackling narcissism, which is ironic, because, well, the guy just can't seem to bring himself to stay off TV for a second. He told USA Today that celebrity culture encourages narcissism, but when the newspaper asked him if he feels like he contributes to it by placing troubled celebrities in the limelight, he replied, "We unveil all the traumas and reveal what's going on with these people. We pull the curtain back and show you who these human beings are and where there is real suffering. It's a bait and switch. We're using the celebrity draw and trying it on people to show the reality. The celebrities have all been very pleased to be part of it because they want be an inspiration to other people."

When Reuters asked him to discuss how celebrity culture builds people up to knock them down—something Pinsky sometimes participates in when he diagnoses stars he's never treated—he replied, "I have a little theory about that, too. It's clearly envy. It's bringing people down to your size. It's a narcissistic impulse that didn't used to exist, but we've become increasingly narcissistic as a society, and envy is one of those outcomes." You hear that, guys? We're all just jealous of him.

His termination was oddly timed

Pinsky's contract with HLN ended soon after he dished on Hillary Clinton's health, despite having never treated her. Some believe that's no coincidence.

On his radio show (via the The Washington Times), Pinsky and another doctor reviewed the Democratic nominee's medical records. "Based on the information that she has provided and her doctors have provided, we were gravely concerned not just about her health, but her health care," Pinsky said. "Both of us concluded that if we were providing the care that she was receiving, we'd be ashamed to show up in a doctor's lounge. We'd be laughed out. She's receiving sort-of 1950-level care by our evaluation."

Page Six reports that eight days later, the cancellation for Dr. Drew on Call was announced, and it wasn't a coincidence. Pinsky's rep denied the connection, but added, "I know it's hard to believe."