January 20, 2003
Brandon’s story has had a profound impact on viewers. Drug addiction is a silent epidemic, and here, Dr. Phil answers the questions everyone wants to know about Brandon and the structured intervention process.
Q: When Brandon and his parents first appeared on the show, you did a structured intervention. Can you explain what that was and why you thought it was appropriate for Brandon?
A: When Brandon was on the show, we did what I called a structured intervention because it is the way to take all of the distractions and all of the emotion out of intervening in someone’s life. There is a clear goal, and you have to stay on point, so it’s structured. It’s not about yelling and screaming. It’s not about opinions. It’s about facts.
Q: Since the first Brandon episode aired, you’ve had thousands of letters and millions of page views on your website. Obviously, Brandon’s story has struck a deep chord across the country. Is this a common problem that lots of families are facing?
A: Brandon’s story has struck a chord in America because this is one of those silent epidemics that I’ve talked so much about. So many families have addicts behind closed doors, but they’re hidden from the world so they’re hidden from help. We had over five million page views on this since we aired that show. That tells me that people in America are looking for answers, and we intend to give them through this type of show.
Q: On today’s show, Brandon’s parents seemed so optimistic about Brandon’s early results. What happened in rehab to cause this dramatic turnaround?
A: What you’ll find any time that someone goes into rehab is you start a roller coaster ride. You first have to go through detox. When you do that, it puts a tremendous load on the system. It’s going to affect the mood. It’s going to affect energy, and it’s not going to be a success-only journey. You’re going to have good times, where they and you feel euphoric, and then you’re going to have dark times.
Q: What kind of setbacks can Brandon and his parents expect as he goes through this process of becoming drug free?
A: The whole idea of a family that intervenes with an addict, whether the drug of choice is alcohol or some type of drug, is to have an expectancy that is realistic. This is a complex disease. It is resistant to treatment. It is subject to relapse. You have to go into this knowing that this is a marathon and not a sprint. If you expect that, you won’t panic when you hit the rough spots.
Q: You told Brandon’s parents that they were “talking to the drugs, not to Brandon.” What did you mean by that?
A: Any time someone is addicted to drugs, the drugs take over their reasoning. It takes over their logic. It takes over their problem solving, and it creates all types of paranoia, anger and mood swings. So you see really erratic behavior from someone addicted to drugs, and it’s not really their personality. It’s not who they are. So while they’re under the influence, you’re going to see a very different manifestation than who that person really is. That’s what I mean when I say, “You’re talking to the drugs.”
Q: How important was it for Brandon’s progress that he saw himself on tape on the Dr. Phil show?
A: We looked at a lot of different options in helping this family and how much to show. The decision was that Brandon could be an inspiration to so many in America, and he told us that probably the most significant motivator for him was seeing himself on this show because the camera doesn’t lie. It tells you the truth, and he’s forced to deal with his irrational and aggressive behavior.
Q: What do you think of Brandon now?
A: At this point, I am as hopeful for Brandon as I was the day that I met him. I was able to see through the drugs by looking at this child’s history across time and what kind of young man he became before the drugs were there. I was able to see all the gifts and skills and talents that made his family so hopeful. I am in hopes that we’re going to see that unfold across time, but this is a long and difficult road.
Q: What’s in store for Brandon now? How does he transition out of rehab without slipping back into his old life?
A: As I’ve said, Brandon has to understand this is not a sprint. This is a marathon. What you’re going to see, as we look at this next chapter in Brandon’s life, is that he has started down a road that oftentimes is uphill and it’s a slippery slope. But again, we’re not looking at success or failure based on the immediate time frame. We’re looking at this over the long haul. We’re talking about a young person’s life here. It’s worth the effort. It’s worth the journey.
Q: How do parents enable their children to be drug users?
A: One of the things that I think the parents in this family are demonstrating to those around America is how we can enable young people to self-destruct. You can do this by looking the other way, by being in denial and pretending that something isn’t existent or isn’t as bad as it truly is. In this case, the dad really turned away and just simply unplugged. The mother was covering for the young man, allowing him to sleep all day, pretending that he hadn’t become completely unproductive. Her pain was profound, but it was silent. You cannot do that. You have to be willing to tell yourself the truth and to deal with the truth. Anything short of that is clearly enabling the problem to continue.
Q: What should parents do when they suspect their children of drug or alcohol abuse?
A: The first step, if a parent really suspects that their child is involved in drugs or alcohol, is to do their homework. Find out what's going on. I'm much more concerned about failing to recognize a problem than falsely identifying something that isn't there. You have to take action. You have to deal with the situation by confronting the individual. But you've got to do your homework first. Know the facts so you don't get into arguments and innuendo. It's a fact-driven situation. Once that's done, you need professional help. Drug addiction, alcohol addiction does not go away. It will not cure itself. You need professional help, and you need to reach out for it the minute you identify the existence of the problem.