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Dr. Drew under fire after McCready death

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 09:24 PM

The criticism of Dr. Drew Pinsky spread on the Internet almost as quickly as news of Mindy McCready's death.

The country singer with the tumultuous personal life became the fifth cast member of his "Celebrity Rehab" series to die since appearing on the show and the third from Season 3. The previous deaths stirred up rumors of a curse and a debate about the show's helpfulness, and McCready's apparent suicide upped the pitch of the reaction.

While many noted that Pinsky took on hard cases, others rendered stark judgment. Singer Richard Marx on Twitter compared Pinsky to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the so-called suicide doctor: "Same results."

Marx backed off later Monday, saying the crack went too far. But he restated his thoughts in a way that summed up much of the reaction in the first 24 hours since the 37-year-old McCready's death Sunday afternoon in Heber Springs, Ark.

"It is, however, my opinion that what Dr. D does is exploitation and his TV track record is not good," Marx wrote.

VH1's "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" is not currently on the air. Pinsky switched his focus to non-celebrities in Season 6 last fall and changed the title to "Rehab." The show spawned two spinoffs, "Sober House" and "Sex Rehab."

Season 3, shot in 2009, featured McCready, former NBA star Dennis Rodman, actors Tom Sizemore and Mackenzie Phillips, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss and a handful of lesser known celebrity types.

Pinsky diagnosed her with "love addiction" during the series' run and called her an "angel" in the finale.

In an interview with The Associated Press several months later, he said McCready had a good shot at recovery if she remained in treatment.

"Like with anybody I treat, it's really up to them," Pinsky said. "I never know. If they do the work they're supposed to do, yes (there can be success). If she does the work it will be great. It's up to her how much of that she does, how much she feels she needs to do. It seems like she's doing rather well right now so I hope she continues to do so."

Three years later, she's dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head. McCready walked away from treatment several days ago after her father asked a judge to intervene.

Pinsky issued a statement that noted he'd spoken with McCready recently.

"She is a lovely woman who will be missed by many," the statement said. "Although I have not treated her for a few years, I had reached out to her recently upon hearing about the apparent suicide of her boyfriend and father of her younger (child). She was devastated. Although she was fearful of stigma and ridicule she agreed with me that she needed to make her health and safety a priority. Unfortunately it seems that Mindy did not sustain her treatment."

A lack of continued treatment also appears to have led to the deaths of McCready's Season 3 castmates Mike Starr, bassist for Alice in Chains, and Joey Kovar, a "Real World" participant. Los Angeles riots spark Rodney King and actor Jeff Conaway also have passed away.

Bob Forrest, a chemical dependency counselor who appeared on Season 3 of "Celebrity Rehab" and continues to work with Pinsky, said a discussion about mental health and substance abuse issues is important. But attacking Pinsky has only distracted from the real issues.

"Regardless of your feelings about how we do it with the TV show, calling Dr. Drew 'Dr. Kevorkian,' what kind of dialogue is that?" he said. "It's a good headline. We're going through a growth spurt in regards to who we are as a country. I really feel there's something going on in America beyond Mindy McCready's death."

Dr. Sharon Hirsch, an associate professor in the University of Chicago's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, says patients can get trapped in the yin and yang of addiction. She was not familiar with McCready's case, but noted people abusing alcohol or drugs have a lower impulse control.

"Depression and substance dependence are all very malignant disorders and I think people forget that," Hirsch said.

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