‘Stop The Ridiculous Spin’: Dr Drew Examines Celebs’ ‘Dehydration’ & ‘Exhaustion’ Excuse For Drug Use (EXCLUSIVE BLOG)

Demi: Extreme Weight Loss?
Expert comments on Demi Moore's weight loss.
The Situation in Rehab
'Jersey Shore' star admits to prescription pill problem.
Successfully Rehabbed
These celebs got the help they needed.
In the wake of Jersey Shore star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino confirming he is in a drug rehab program “to get control of a prescription medication problem I had due to exhaustion,” HLN anchor and daytime talk-show host, Dr. Drew Pinsky, examines the go-to alibi that’s been used by for a host of stars, including actress’ Demi Moore and Lindsay Lohan.

One of my goals in choosing to participate in mass media is to help viewers and listeners wade through the nonsense that is fed to them and help them become more sophisticated consumers of media. As a physician one of the most transparent and troubling lies that I see spun from publicists and then distributed as legitimate news is when a young public figure becomes ill. What we hear from the spin doctors is that the young client is suffering from “exhaustion” and/or “dehydration.”  

Now, I am not suggesting that merely because someone is a public figure he or she is not entitled to confidentiality as it pertains to health care. Of course they are entitled to that, but please, stop lying to us!  

Just report that the individual is under doctor’s care and will be expected to return to work soon. Stop with the ridiculous spin. The public is too smart for this and deserves better.  Young people run marathons, play competitive and extreme sports. They rarely need medical attention and when they do it is for very specific definable medical reasons. There simply is no such diagnostic category as exhaustion.

Hospitals have very stringent admitting criteria that are reviewed by governmental and private agencies. This assures that hospitals maintain a certain standard of care. This is required for hospitals to maintain their licensure and standing. So they cannot admit a young healthy individual for being tired! Psychiatric hospitals are held to the same standards. There must be some identified medical diagnosis that meets criteria to need hospitalization.

So when you hear or read that someone has been hospitalized for exhaustion or dehydration immediately read that as a lie. If this is a young person under say 30 years of age most of these fabrications are covering for addiction. After 30 it can be addiction or alcoholism but many times this is also a cover for a Psychiatric illness. Somewhat of an exception has been the recent example of Jason Russell, whose family stepped forward and reported that Jason’s recent public breakdown was the result of Reactive Psychosis.

I am certain that this is in fact what his family was initially told about Jason’s condition and they should be commended for being so forthcoming and honest. The episode looked to have been a Manic episode related to Bipolar Disorder although it may well have been a reactive psychosis. The irony here is that Reactive Psychosis begs the question, reactive to what?

This still leaves open the possibility of spinning this story as reactive to… guess what, stress and exhaustion. Reactive Psychosis is rather unusual and is more common in those with Personality Disorders or a family history of Bipolar Disorder. They are actually reporting something rather complex about his Psychiatric status but because it is anchored to story about exhaustion and stress somehow it seems more palatable to the spin doctors.

Bottom line is that celebrities are no different from the rest of us. They suffer the very same psychiatric and medical problems that afflict us all. Paying attention to the reality of the lives that we all watch play out in public has the potential to teach us. Consuming media in a sophisticated manner can provide opportunities to teach our children by looking at the example of others.  Celebrity stories can also be cautionary tales from which each of us can learn more medical and psychiatric realities of the human experience. 

Dr. Drew Pinsky is a nationally renowned addiction medicine specialist, the host of HLN’s primetime Dr.Drew  on HLN (9pm ET & PT) and Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers on the CW. He can also be heard on the nationally syndicated “Loveline” radio program.