On the Brink of Self-Destruction
Rick wrote to Dr. Phil for help for his son, Michael, who he says is abusing prescription medication. Dr. Phil reads a portion of the father's letter: "He is a handsome young man with slate blue eyes and brown hair, with an infectious smile, wry sense of humor and really charming personality. He used to play baseball and had a promising future, at least for possibly getting a scholarship to play in college and helping him pursue a career in whatever he chose," he reads. But then the letter takes a grim turn. "He is also a liar, a thief and a cheat with no sense of remorse, guilt or concern for the welfare of himself or those who love him. He is a Jekyll and Hyde, subservient to the drugs he's using and abusing."
Rick and his wife, JoAnne, join Dr. Phil onstage. "We've talked a little bit about your son. Where are we here?" Dr. Phil asks the couple.
[AD]"Right now, Michael is taking a methadone treatment program. We went through escalation of multiple different things, starting with the ADHD-type medicines and him experimenting with marijuana, Loratab and other things," Rick answers.
"Let's cut to the chase. Where is your son in this situation?" Dr. Phil asks. "Do you believe his life is in danger?"
"Absolutely," Rick and JoAnne answer in unison.
Rick says Michael was doing up to 320 milligrams of OxyContin a day. "For anyone else, that would kill four or five of us, if we took that much in a day," he says.
"I started using ADHD drugs when I was in 10th grade. I kind of liked them the first time I tried it," says 19-year-old Michael on videotape.
"He admitted that he was taking ADHD medication from some of the kids at school. I wasn't alarmed, because I thought that maybe he really did need the ADHD medication," JoAnne reveals.
"I got a prescription. My mom was giving them to me. One day, I just came across them and started taking them on my own. I moved onto OxyContin probably about a year and a half ago. Before I knew it, I was taking 300 or more milligrams a day," Michael says.
JoAnne says that her son has also abused Xanax, Adderall, Lortab and marijuana. [AD]
"That progressed to the point where we started finding needles. He was shooting up OxyContin in a liquid form," Rick says. "Michael has been on a methadone program for about five weeks now. I think he still supplementing with OxyContin."
JoAnne says her son was smart and outgoing before addiction took over his life. "He was a pitcher for the baseball team, and he was an A/B student. He had a lot of friends," she says. Her voice breaking, she continues. "I still see my sweet kid. I know he really wants to stop."
"I told him, â€˜I want my son back,' and his response was, â€˜He's not coming back,'" Rick adds through tears. He struggles to speak. "That's a killer."
When the videotape ends, Dr. Phil turns to the couple. "Do you get that your son is in danger of losing his life?" he asks.
"Yes, we do get that," JoAnne replies.
"I don't think that you do," Dr. Phil counters. "Where is your sense of urgency about this? What is it you're willing to do or not do in this situation?"
"We're willing to do anything to help our son," JoAnne answers.
"Then let's start with straight answers. This kid is robbing you blind. He's robbed your house. He's stolen everything he can carry from his own parents," Dr. Phil says sharply. [AD]
"Right, and we still love him to death, and we still give him chances, but he still continues to do it," JoAnne says.
"What do you mean you give him chances?" Dr. Phil probes.
"Every time he comes to us crying, saying he needs help and that he wants to quit, and he's going to do better, we give him chances every time," JoAnne explains.
"How's that working?" Dr. Phil asks.
Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Travis Stork, co-host of The Doctors. "What would be a normal dose of OxyContin, Dr. Stork, if somebody had a broken leg?" Dr. Phil asks.
"I might start a patient on 10 milligrams twice a day. We're talking about 20 milligrams as an initial starting dose," Dr. Stork replies. "He's taking 20 times that much, at times, so it's potentially deadly."
"If he's mixing this with other drugs, if he's cannon-balling it with alcohol or something like that, the potentiating effect can be totally out of control, true?"
"Absolutely true," the E.R. doctor replies.
"We sat down with Michael. We've been through counselors, we've been through outpatient therapy, we've been to detox centers, we've been to rehab," Rick chimes in. "I have told Michael multiple times, â€˜Michael, I would give my life if I thought giving my life would help you.' We've tried everything."
"We owe people all the time," JoAnne adds.[AD]
"Because you go pay his drug debts," Dr. Phil notes.
"Yes, we do," JoAnne says.
"He gets drugs from dealers, then he uses it up instead of selling it, so he doesn't have the money to pay them, so he comes to you for the money, so you're actually paying the drug dealer."
"To save his life, we think," JoAnne says. "We know it's not the way, but we don't know what do to when he's crying and saying somebody's after him."
JoAnne says it seems as if her son has a dual personality. "He's stealing from us, and then he feels bad. Then we say, â€˜OK, we can forgive you. We can move on,'" she tells Dr. Phil.
"Do we want to wait for this young man to hit bottom, which by my definition is death?" Dr. Phil asks. "Is that what we want to do?"
"Absolutely not," Rick says. "Like I said, I want to get my son back. I want to see Michael succeed in life, because I know it's there. I know he has that capability."
Dr. Phil tells the parents that if they want to save Michael's life, they have to be prepared to play hardball. "You guys are letting your love cloud your logic. You want to love him out of this, but you're not dealing with him; you're dealing with the drug."
"I agree," JoAnne says.
"You know what you're guilty of?" Dr. Phil asks JoAnne. "You're guilty of loving your son from the inside out, and that's all. You didn't make these choices for him. You don't own this problem."
Wiping tears, JoAnne says, "It doesn't even feel real."[AD]