Nick's Party Problem

“My 20-year-old son, Nick, started drinking heavily in his freshman year of college. He’s gone to the hospital for alcohol poisoning five times last year and 11 times this year,” Cathy says.

“On average, I’ll drink half a liter to a liter of hard alcohol five to seven days a week,” Nick says. “Some of the crazy things I’ve done when I’m really drunk is pee in my pants, and I’ve blacked out several times. On one occasion, I pulled down my pants and took a poop on the bedroom floor.”

“When Nick is away at school, he’ll call me up saying he has no money for food. So, I’ll put money in his account,” Cathy explains.

 Despite confronting him about his drinking, Nick says Cathy still continues to financially support his habit and has even purchased alcohol for him.

In October 2011, Nick returned to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. He had a blood alcohol level of .50. “In 2011, Nick has been to alcohol detox three times. He needs to stop drinking. I just can’t do it anymore,” Cathy laments.

[AD]“So, you think you have a handle on your drinking?” Dr. Phil asks Nick.

“Yes,” he says. “If I don’t want to drink, I won’t drink. I feel like if I want to stop at anytime, I can.”

“Do I look like I’m buying this?” Dr. Phil asks Nick. “What I want to do is grab you and shake you until your damn teeth rattle.”

Gastroenterologist and internist Dr. Jorge Rodriguez joins their conversation. He says that Nick’s heavy drinking may have already caused damage to his liver and brain. Standing at a table, Dr. Rodriguez shows Nick a live display of an alcoholic’s liver and brain.

See what Nick’s liver and brain will look like if he continues drinking.

Dr. Phil quizzes Cathy on her role in Nick’s alcoholism. “I don’t know what your excuse is. I don’t get why you have been so passive in all this,” he tells her.

Dr. Phil asks Areva Martin about the legal ramifications of Cathy supporting Nick's alcohol abuse. “There can be both criminal and civil liability for the drinker who goes out and kills someone, but there are also civil, and in some states, criminal liability, for a parent who allows a minor to drink alcohol, true?” 

“Absolutely,” Areva says. “In some states there is a law called “vicarious liability” which basically means that you’re responsible for the acts of another, particularly a minor.” Turning to Cathy, Areva adds, “We heard Nick say that you buy him alcohol. So, you’re enabling and creating a situation that could cause him to do bodily harm to someone else.”

[AD]“So I'll tell you what we’re going to do,” Dr. Phil says to Cathy. “We’re going to have a little role-playing exercise. Let’s assume the worst has happened, and your son has indeed killed someone drunk driving.”

Cathy agrees to try the role-reversal exercise. She walks to a mock court stand onstage and takes a seat.

Watch Dr. Phil's role-playing exercise with Cathy. How would her story hold up in a courtroom?

After questioning Cathy about Nick’s drinking, she eventually admits that she has lost control of her son.

“He’s going to wind up in jail, and you’re going to wind up in a civil lawsuit because you allowed this young man to continue killing himself,” Dr. Phil tells her. “Wouldn’t you rather he be sober in jail than risking his and other people’s lives on the street?”

“I want him in a treatment facility. Jail is not the answer for him,” Cathy says.

“He doesn’t want to go to treatment. He says he doesn’t have a problem,” Dr. Phil responds.  

Dr. Phil calls on audience members Paul and Lynn, two parents who lost their 23-year-old son, Philip, to alcohol abuse. Just months before his college graduation, Philip died after a night of heavy partying with his fraternity brothers in Florida during his 2011 spring break. Toxicology reports showed alcohol, cocaine and OxyContin in Philip’s system, but his mother insists his death could have been prevented.

“Is there anything you all want to say to Nick?” Dr. Phil asks Paul and Lynn.

“I really wouldn’t even know where to start. If you knew the kind of pain that we go through every day of our lives, you wouldn’t do this to your mother, buddy," Paul tearfully tells Nick. "You would not do that to your mother. You got a big break to even have a chance to be on this show. I suggest that you at least try.”

“What have you all come to think and feel about what happened?” Dr. Phil asks Paul and Lynn of Philip’s tragic death.

[AD]“It was an unnecessary death. He could still be alive if they just watched him,” Paul says.

“Do you all blame the fraternity brothers?” Dr. Phil asks.

“I do,” Lynn asserts. “They were there with him. They knew what he was doing. They could have stopped him. They could have watched him.”

Thomas Kane, president of the the College Safety Zone, weighs in on Philip’s situation. He agrees that fraternities and sororities need stricter regulations on college campuses.

“What can parents do about this?” Dr. Phil asks Thomas. “Kids are going off to college every year. What can parents do? How do they know they’re going to send their kid off to college, and they come back alive?”

Thomas explains that parents need to educate their children about alcohol consumption before sending them to college. “High schools need to take a proactive role. Parents need to take a proactive role,” he says, “but I will tell you this: I put a lot of the responsibility on the colleges, the administrators and the campus police department because they are falling really short with educating students. They’re not teaching these students what they can expect on college campuses.”

Agreeing with Thomas, Dr. Phil tells Nick that he is also contributing to the problem of excessive drinking in college. “Nick, what do you think? Do you have a drinking problem, or not?” Dr. Phil asks.

“I guess I do,” he says, “but I don’t want to have one, and I don’t want to think I have one.”

“Well, you do. Nick, you need treatment for this. You need serious alcohol inpatient rehabilitation. You need to be detoxified, and then you need to go through the rehabilitation process to learn what you don’t know about this disease you have.”

[AD]Dr. Phil offers to provide Nick treatment at Origins Recovery Drug and Treatment Centers. “I’m going to make you an offer to put you into an inpatient rehabilitation program immediately if you are willing to do it. Give yourself a chance. Will you do this?” he asks Nick.

“Sure,” he agrees.