Guests On ‘Dr. Phil’ Claim They Were Supplied Alcohol & Told To Buy Heroin

Dr. Phil McGraw

Phil McGraw may have positioned himself as a trusted advisor to those suffering from addiction, but several former guests on his TV series Dr. Phil have levelled explosive claims at the show’s staff, saying they were given alcohol on set and told where to score drugs.

In a joint exposé from STAT and The Boston Globe, Todd Herzog, the winner of Survivor: China and a recovering alcoholic, says that he once arrived at a 2013 taping of Dr. Phil sober only to find a bottle of vodka in his dressing room.

In the report, 32-year-old Herzog says he was “unable to resist” drinking the booze, and then claims a show staffer gave him a Xanax pill to “calm his nerves”. When it was time to appear on camera, he was so intoxicated he had to be carried onto the set. McGraw said to the camera gravely: “I’ve never talked to a guest who was closer to death.”

Herzog told STAT/The Boston Globe that he appeared on the show two more times and found another bottle of vodka in his dressing room in 2014, but was able to resist the urge to drink it.

You know, I get that it’s a television show and that they want to show the pain that I’m in. However, what would have happened if I died there? You know, that’s horrifying.

I’m grateful in a lot of ways for the show. For getting me help in the nicest places in the country…[but] there should not be litres of vodka in my dressing room.

McGraw declined to comment for the STAT/The Boston Globe article, but psychologist Martin Greenberg (who serves as the director of professional affairs on Dr. Phil) said via a statement that Herzog was never given vodka or Xanax, saying: “We do not do that with this guest or any other”.

While he called the claims “absolutely, unequivocally untrue”, other former guests have spoken out about their own experiences.

Marianne Smith took her heroin-addicted niece Jordan to appear on the show in 2012. When Jordan began going through withdrawals before the show’s taping, Marianne claims a show’s producer told them to go to LA‘s notorious Skid Row to score heroin.

She also claims there was no care given to Jordan, and that she and Jordan’s mother were left to look after her during the two nights they were in LA before taping the show. She told STAT/The Boston Globe that “we never had anyone…it was just the three of us girls the entire time.” 

Another similar allegation comes from Joelle King-Parrish, who brought her pregnant and heroin-addicted daughter Kaitlin to appear on the show in 2016. When six months pregnant Kaitlin started withdrawing, Joelle claims Dr. Phil staffers told her to “take care of it”, and she ended up rushing her daughter to hospital as she feared for the baby’s life. When she didn’t receive treatment there, Joelle brought her back to the studio and a staffer joined her on the hunt for heroin in Skid Row.

The staffer shot the entire ordeal and the footage was aired as part of the episode. But Dr. Maureen Boyle, an addiction specialist that STAT/The Boston Globe consulted for their story, says that the show should have provided Kaitlin and her baby with medical care when she landed in Los Angeles, pointing out that the mission to obtain heroin was “incredibly deadly”.

You never know what you’re getting in a single dose. The important thing here, this isn’t a TV drama. This is someone’s life.

But staff from the hit TV series are hitting back at the accusations, with Greenberg stating that the show’s guests have never been provided alcohol or told where to procure drugs.

Addicts are notorious for lying, deflecting and trivialising. But if they are at risk when they arrive, then they were at risk before they arrived. The only change is they are one step closer to getting help, typically help they could not have even come close to affording.

Forbes named McGraw 67, the highest-earning daytime TV personality, estimating that he earned USD$79 million (AUD$101.3 million) last year.

While he holds a doctorate in psychology, he is no longer a licensed psychologist, with his Texas license expiring in 2006.

We’ll keep you updated on this story as it develops.

If you or someone you know needs assistance with drug or alcohol addiction, visit Lifeline or call them on 13 11 14. You can find more support at the Australian Drug and Alcohol Foundation’s directory HERE.