Is Rush Limbaugh’s addiction different from other addicts?


Further Reading

Dear Stanton,

I heard one commentator making the point that Rush Limbaugh* was somehow different from other addicts since he developed his addiction following appropriate and legal medical treatment.

Is there a difference in the type of addiction that happens following an abusive-prone person gradually climbing the ladder of substances and one who is introduced by legal means?

Thanks for your reply and your work.

Tom Atkinson

Dear Tom:

The chief exponent of the view that if a physician prescribes it, then you can’t become addicted was, of course, Elvis Presley. Elvis was an active drug warrior at the same time he died with massive amounts of pharmaceuticals in his body.

Elvis did not, however, obtain his pharmaceuticals illegally, but rather had them prescribed (by primarily one physician). Although Limbaugh may have been introduced to pain killers legitimately due to his post-operative pain, the reports are that he obtained large supplies of OxyContin illicitly. Therefore, his drug use was illicit in the same sense as is the use of per se illegal drugs. Nonetheless, quite a few prominent Republicans have found themselves in this position – Cindy McCain (wife of Arizona Senator John McCain) who used an international charity she directed as a way to supply her prescription drug addiction and Jeb Bush’s daughter Noelle who likewise abused prescription drugs she obtained illegally. Neither Noelle Bush nor Cindy McCain served jail time, and it seems likely that Limbaugh will use his voluntary entry into treatment to beat prison as well. Ironically, all three prominent Republicans involved – Jeb Bush, John McCain, and Rush Limbaugh – are ardent drug hawks who favor punishment of drug users.

Obviously, these individuals were addicted to drug effects in the same way as are those addicted to cocaine, heroin, et al. Nonetheless, there seems to be a substantial preference given to those whose addiction is limited to manufactured medications, even when they obtain these drugs illegally.


* Rush Limbaugh is a prominent conservative American radio talk show commentator who (following a tabloid paper’s disclosure that he had his housekeeper obtain massive quantities of OxyContin for him) announced on his radio show that he was addicted to pain killers and immediately checked into a 30-day treatment program.

Stanton Peele

Stanton Peele , recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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