More on Dr. Drew: Diagnosing on TV is Easy, Just Like Predicting the Weather

As a psychiatrist with over 30 years experience, I have a couple of things in common with Dr. Drew. Being a psychiatrist is not one of them. He is an addictionologist. More on that later.

Having been on staff at the same two hospitals in Pasadena, California as Dr. Drew was, albeit well before him, I’m (almost) experiencing a fuzzy sense of kinship with America’s Addictionologist. In fact, at times, I feel myself basking in a few scattered rays of the good doctor’s starlight just by having shared those experiences with him.

When I saw Dr. Drew explaining to an awestruck CNN interviewer why it’s no big deal diagnosing people via their televised images, I felt like running to the bathroom and yodeling into the old porcelain phone. Had I done so, Dr. Drew would have diagnosed my reaction with 99.99% accuracy as acute nausea. (Nobody’s perfect).

Dr. Drew, Renaissance man that he is, recently gave an addictionologist’s diagnosis of Charlie Sheen’s apparent psychiatric problems based upon his public behavior, and recommended treatment. Immediate hospitalization, no less.

I was gratified to hear from Dr. Pinsky, in the course of the CNN interview, that medicine and, by extension, its subspecialty, psychiatry, are on a par with political and weather commentary in terms of appropriatness for media consumption. Even as a psychiatrist (though I did go to med school), I could say that a mole-like lesion on someone’s face big enough to show up on TV was probably a mole. Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time seeing how Dr. Pinsky, without referring the person to a dermatologist for further investigation, including a biopsy, could say for certain that it wasn’t a potentially fatal melanoma.  Instead he seems to be saying,    “That was easy!” (Apologies to Staples).

Dr. Pinsky’s smug view of his capabilities as Doc-in-a-La-Z-Boy makes little sense with respect to the diagnosis of mental illness, his most recently acquired area of expertise.  It’s so much more complex than a zit.  I’ll bet he’s scaring the hell out of plenty of folks out there who now want to hospitalize Aunt Gertrude just because she got a little giddy from that margarita and called herself the Wicked Witch of the West.

If Dr. Pinsky, as he professes, really wishes to educate,  he should do so.  Within his area of expertise.  But, I would urge him to be wary of the ethical standards that govern many of the health professions. These expressly state that thou shalt not diagnose without thoroughly examining a patient first and making sure that you have his or her permission to share your opinion. No wonder Charlie challenged Dr. Drew to a fistfight.  (The Warlock versus the Drewminator).  When it comes to a punch-up, I’d probably bet my clams on Charlie,  but if it were a grandiosity contest…

Woody Allen once said that the late Normal Mailer pledged to donate his ego to the Harvard Medical School. I can just see Dr. Drew’s up there on a shelf,  marinating in the next jar to the left.

Here’s the relevant link:

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5 thoughts on “More on Dr. Drew: Diagnosing on TV is Easy, Just Like Predicting the Weather

  1. His behavior and his shows give off a presence that he is a board certified psychiatrist, in which he isn’t. People are taking what he is saying to heart….. not knowing that he is not qualified. Yes, he is an AMAZING addictionologist and actually board certified in internal medicine and addiction medicine but, that does not qualify him to make judgment into a persons psychiatric/mental health status.

  2. About casey when her mother went to see her in jail .I think her mother said that caylee drown in the pool that was a message she better keep quit about her father. And take the rap. Because she dtdent want her husband to go to jail

  3. So true. The other issue is that Dr Drew has no formal education in human sexuality, sexology or sex therapy. As it is, few medical schools provide adequate instruction in terms of clinical sexology. Dr. Drew makes a mockery, construed as “infotainment,” of some very serious sexual issues. Quite frankly, his opinions, judgment and what seems a clamoring for the spotlight, appear to be in the service of some unhealthy narcissism. Apparently, he has admitted that he scored very high on his own, home-cooked narcissistic inventory which was employed in a study of “narcissistic celebrities.” Finally, his lack of psychiatric training or any form of mental health certification is most apparent in his diagnoses of “sex addiction.” I shudder to think of the damage he is causing by spreading his judgmental gospel on his television show. Let us hope that the entire “sex addiction” dogma goes the way of tainted Halloween candy, stranger abduction and recovered abuse memories in the veiin of the McMartin pre-school disaster – soon to be ignored in favor of balanced science and evidence-based interventions.

  4. I was interested to find this piece. Dr. Drew is as qualified (he’s a trained internist) to speak as a psychiatrist, as Dr. Conrad Murray (cardiologist) is to practice anesthesiology. He apparently has no insight into the causes of his own reactions to the news stories that he feels free to comment upon. Why? Because he hasn’t any. Furthermore, he bases his diagnosis on completely superficial information, and that seems dangerous to me. Sometimes ‘psychiatric’ problems are caused by neurological ones. How can he tell if Casey Anthony”s (for example) behavior is a psychiatric problem or a neurological one? She might have a brain tumor, or wouldn’t that count?
    If he wants to be a pundit, he should take time off and do a 3 year residency in psychiatry! Oh, I forgot. He wouldn’t have the exposure or be paid to do that.

  5. I too found this interesting. I am actually appalled that Dr. Drew thinks he is qualified to diagnose mental illness, especially if he’s never sat down and assessed them. I am a psychology major so I am training to become a psychologist. I feel like he is making a mockery of this profession. He makes it seem like anyone can diagnose a mental illness without the training that actual certified psychologists and psychiatrists have.

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