Pubdate: Sat, 11 Oct 2003
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2003 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Author: Jill Barton, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh
announced during his radio program Friday that he is addicted to
painkillers and is checking into a rehab center to "break the hold
this highly addictive medication has on me."

"You know I have always tried to be honest with you and open about my
life," Limbaugh, who lives in Palm Beach County, said during a
stunning admission aired nationwide. "So I need to tell you today that
part of what you have heard and read is correct. I am addicted to
prescription pain medication."

"Immediately following this broadcast, I am checking myself into a
treatment center for the next 30 days to once and for all break the
hold this highly addictive medication has on me," he added.

He did not identify the treatment center.

Limbaugh gave up his job as an ESPN sports analyst Oct. 1, three days
after saying on the sports network's "Sunday NFL Countdown" that
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because
the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

The reports of possible drug abuse surfaced at about the same time,
first in the National Enquirer. The tabloid had interviewed Wilma
Cline, who said she became Limbaugh's drug connection after working as
his maid. She said Limbaugh had abused OxyContin and other

Law enforcement sources who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed
to The Associated Press that Limbaugh was being investigated by the
Palm Beach County state attorney's office.

State attorney spokesman Mike Edmondson said Friday his office could
neither confirm nor deny that an investigation was under way.
Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, did not return a phone message seeking

"At the present time, the authorities are conducting an investigation,
and I have been asked to limit my public comments until this
investigation is complete," Limbaugh said Friday.

Ed Shohat, the attorney for Cline and her husband, said the
publication of the National Enquirer story may have saved Limbaugh's

"Sometimes the exercise of First Amendment rights does very positive
things. This may be one of those times," Shohat said.

Steve Plamann, executive editor of The National Enquirer, said he was
gratified that Limbaugh confirmed the Enquirer story and that he plans
to seek help.

"We didn't do our stories gleefully. We just reported the facts,"
Plamann said. "We don't wish him ill at all and I certainly hope he
gets the help that he needs and gets over his addiction."

Limbaugh said he started taking painkillers "some years ago" after a
doctor prescribed them following a spinal surgery. His back pain
stemming from the surgery persisted, so Limbaugh said he started
taking pills and became hooked.

"Over the past several years I have tried to break my dependence on
pain pills and, in fact, twice checked myself into medical facilities
in an attempt to do so. I have recently agreed with my physician about
the next steps."

Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates the politically focused
"Rush Limbaugh Show" to more than 650 markets, did not have an
immediate comment, spokesman Michael Sitrick said. Several guest hosts
were scheduled until Limbaugh comes back after rehab.

Limbaugh's fans may remember the commentator's past remarks of
intolerance toward drug addicts, but most will remain loyal and his
ratings will stay high, said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a
trade magazine for talk radio and television.

"His audience will stick by him because his position on addictive
drugs is just a small part of his life and the entertainment he
provides," Harrison said. "Many people find him even more interesting
because of this."

The move could also help him legally. Former U.S. Attorney Kendall
Coffey said drug dealers - not drug users - are typically the target
of prosecutors and the legal system is "geared toward giving an addict
one chance to get clean.

"When somone has no prior criminal history, the system would almost
never insist on jail time for a user who is seeking help for an
addictive problem," Coffey said.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director for the New York-based Drug Policy
Alliance, said it was positive that Limbaugh would tackle his
addiction "from some place other than a prison cell. The tragedy is
that tens of thousands of others who suffer from the same kind of
problem are languishing behind bars today because they don't have his

An addiction specialist said "it is very, very difficult to develop
and maintain a solid recovery."

"When someone has developed a substantial pattern of addiction over
time, the urge to restart that pattern is very, very powerful," said
Dr. Kenneth Skodnek, a psychiatrist and director of Addiction Services
at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y.

Skodnek called Limbaugh's entry into rehab "a first step," adding that
Limbaugh's celebrity may actually help in his recovery.

Celebrities "do get a lot more attention, so the implications of use
versus abstinence are perhaps much greater than for others. They have
further to fall in failure."

Associated Press writers John Pain, Rachel La Corte and Terry Spencer
in Miami contributed to this report.
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