In recent years, there’s been an increase in the number of celebrities overdosing on prescription drugs -- a fact that probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most Americans. And now, with the intense media coverage over Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, and most recently the “King of Pop,” the public’s attention is shifting from the stars themselves to the individuals who supplied them with the drugs that could have led to their deaths.
In the case of Anna Nicole, the courts have charged former boyfriend Howard K. Stern and others with contributing to her death. In the death of Michael Jackson, his physician is the one under investigation and rightfully so. His doctor, like other unscrupulous individuals in the medical profession who hide behind their “white coats,” is finally being seen for what he really is: a drug pusher.
From receiving elaborate gifts to enjoying VIP treatment, stars often leverage their power, money and access to gain special treatment. But these recent cases -- in which celebrities were supplied with mountains of highly-regulated prescription drugs -- illustrate that this influence extends far beyond frivolous perks.
Though doctors take an oath to “first, do no harm,” these few unethical physicians were willing to prescribe potent medications while understanding that they were being mixed with other, often harmful drugs and that their patients were drug addicts. The doctors signed the prescription slips with the knowledge that these drugs, rather than serve a therapeutic purpose, were in fact causing harm.
That, in my opinion, makes these doctors no different than the meth dealers on the corner who are willing to facilitate the dangerous habit of vulnerable addicts for the right price (is it about money, or access to power and wealth?). Yet, unlike the average street dealer, these MDs may be worse, because they hide behind diplomas and false sense of trust.
Of course, we cannot place all of the blame on the doctors. In many cases, the family and so-called “friends” of these stars are willing to keep their meal ticket happy at all costs. These bottom feeders are more interested in their cash flow than the health and well-being of the celebrity.
Concerned family members who try to confront the celebrity are often quickly removed from the addict’s life. Once the people who truly care about them are removed from the inner circle, the celebrity replaces them with an entourage of “yes” people who simply reinforce the harmful conduct. Britney Spears and more recently Mischa Barton are positive examples of how family members can intervene appropriately to get desperately needed medical and mental health treatment.
However, the negative examples seem far more common.
Case in point: Howard K. Stern and two doctors have been accused of conspiring to keep Anna Nicole Smith stocked up with a constant supply of prescription drugs including methadone, chlonazepam and chloral hydrate even though they were all aware she was an addict. The physicians, Dr. Kapoor and Dr. Eroshevich, are also charged with obtaining opiates by fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
The smallest victim in this tragic situation is Anna Nicole’s daughter Dannielynn. Because of her mother’s addictions, the doctor’s negligence, and the enabler’s greed, she never had the chance to get to know her mother.
As a Clinical Psychologist, it was evident to me that Anna Nicole Smith’s behavior was consistent with that of an individual with a serious drug problem. It was displayed in slurred speech and her actions, which were often embarrassing and humiliating. Her biggest enabler, Howard K. Stern, was so enmeshed with her emotionally and financially that he was either unable or unwilling to see how his total lack of regard for her true physical and mental well-being was sending her to an early grave.
Medical doctors and complicit family or friends should be held accountable for their participation in facilitating the deceased in illegally obtaining drugs. This recent trend should put all doctors and enabling members of entourages on notice that contributing to an individual’s delinquency and eventual death comes with at a high cost.
If we as a society believe that it is wrong to enable a drug addict willingly, there must be serious consequences for this action. In the case of the death of Anna Nicole Smith the three defendants could face up to 33 years in prison.