Dr. Drew Pinsky and the Mirror Effect

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People like to complain about the weather, but no one seems to be doing anything about it. When it comes to tawdry celebrity stories about addiction, Dr. Drew takes it on the way only an actual medical doctor can.

I found out about Dr. Drew through stories told by Adam Carolla on his podcast. They both hosted a radio call in show called Loveline for 11 years. He’s also been practicing addiction medicine for over twenty years, making him one of the most knowledgeable people in the media on the subject. While most drug use critics and advocates are motivated by politics, Dr. Drew talks more about the science behind drug addiction rather than the moral posturing surrounding it. A common thread among his patients, which include some celebrities, is a high level of narcissism, which he talks about in his new book, The Mirror Effect.

Narcisissm. That sounds about right, doesn’t it? That’s the reason we’re bombarded by celebrity news, featuring empty-headed young slackers in a competition to see who can go on the worst bender, isn’t it? Well, it is, but not in the way you would think. Narcissism is not the same thing as vanity. In fact, it’s the product of intense self-loathing. People who have a high level of narcissism create a persona that is outgoing and confident to make up for their lack of self-esteem. Actually, most healthy people do this. Celebrities have high narcissism because it helps them deal with the rejection that comes with trying to be an actor or a musician. It becomes a problem when it divorces people from reality. Narcissistic people turn to drugs, sexual promiscuity, and other dangerous behavior in order to cope with their lack of self esteem and any other trauma they might have. The mirror effect the book refers to is the concern that the pervasiveness of celebrity bad behavior will serve as modeling behavior to people with high narcissism, including children and young adults. Narcissism is not necessarily the cause of these problems, but it does increase the severity and scale of them.

If there is one thing that I took away from Dr. Drew’s book, it’s that addictive behavior is an extremely complex psychological problem. Each individual’s path to recovery is different, and it’s achieved through slow, incremental changes. I’ve also been listening to Dr. Drew’s new radio show as a podcast on iTunes. One of the things that he said that really stuck with me was that a patient’s prognosis for cancer is better than drug addiction. If you walk into a hospital with lymphoma, you have a better chance of walking out of there than the guy who’s hooked on Demerol. I would really like to know what he thinks of the problem of the Downtown Eastside. Vancouver may have some advantages since the addicts are crowded around such a small area, but it would be nice to actually see addiction treated as a disease from a medical science point of view.

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