The Drug Made Me Do It


"I am not making any excuses," Rush Limbaugh said in his public statement about his narcotic habit. "I take full responsibility for my problem."

Not quite. Aside from the fact that Limbaugh no doubt hopes to escape the jail sentence he has prescribed for other illegal drug users, the talk radio host implicitly blames his pill popping on the drugs themselves. He says he took narcotic painkillers after back surgery "some years ago," and "this medication turned out to be highly addictive." Later he says he is seeking treatment to "once and for all break the hold this highly addictive medication has on me."

By attributing his addiction to the irresistible lure of these drugs, Limbaugh not only minimizes his own responsibility; he does a disservice to pain patients by reinforcing the opiophobia that has led to scandalous undertreatment of pain in this country. Contrary to his implication, studies during the last few decades have found that people who take opioids for pain rarely become addicted to their psychoactive effects and start using them for nonmedical reasons.

Presumably that is what Limbaugh did. Although he says he continues to suffer from back pain, he sees his drug use as a problem requiring treatment and alludes to other celebrities in similar situations who have been praised (wrongly, in his view) for "conquering great demons." By overgeneralizing from his own experience with opioids, he feeds the beliefs that result in untold suffering because doctors are reluctant to prescribe these drugs.