Dr. Phil’s peculiar accent and mustache have been regular visitors on millions of television screens across the nation, but a new report alleges that the iconic “doctor” — Phillip McGraw holds a Ph.D. in psychology, not an M.D. — isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. In fact, some former guests say that the television star’s program is downright dangerous.
When former “Survivor” winner Todd Herzog appeared on the show in 2013, he was so drunk and high that he had to be carried onto the stage. Through tears, Herzog slurred that he could barely walk and told Dr. Phil that he drank a liter of vodka earlier in the day. But Herzog told the medical news website STAT that he was sober when he arrived at the show’s Los Angeles studio. He said that backstage he found a bottle of Smirnoff vodka and after downing the alcohol, somebody offered him a Xanax.
Dr. Phil denied Herzog’s recollection of the events, telling STAT “we do not do that with this guest or any other” and calling the allegations “absolutely, unequivocally untrue.” Another guest says he bought heroin while waiting to go on the show and that the program’s staff knew about his purchase. Jeff Sugar, who teaches clinical psychiatry at the University of Southern California told STAT “These people are barely hanging on. It’s like if one of them was drowning and approaching a lifeboat, and instead of throwing them an inflatable doughnut, you throw them an anchor.”
STAT, which is an arm of the company behind “The Boston Globe,” also noted that patients “treated” on the show are often taken to treatment centers that have a close relationship with the show and tout endorsements from Dr. Phil. The doctor has become hugely successful from his program and is the highest-paid daytime television personality. In researching their story, STAT was in constant contact with a representative for the show and the outlet “offered a series of shifting explanations” — at first they claimed that they don’t have a responsibility to monitor guests before walking that statement back and saying “we cannot control what we cannot control.”
Other guests paint a different story of their experience with the show and some credit it with saving their lives. Herzog is now 32 years old and sober. He appeared on the show three times before he finally got clean, he says “I’m so much happier now. I’m living again.”