Now that you’re doing podcasts, you have the opportunity to emphasize things over and over. How did Adam get you to join up with him over at Carolla Digital?
I just finally had more time. And I spend a lot of time on iTunes. I’d done his podcast with him a number of times. He really made me an offer—in his own Adam kind of way, in December. It was as enthusiastic as he gets. I said, “I’ve got time in January, I can do it.” And then I came in and I thought, “Oh my God, this is the greatest thing ever. It’s so freeing.”
You can kind of hear that in your voice on your podcasts—how free you feel. You can swear!
I get to swear, I get to talk to people for as long as I want, I get to actually have a conversation and I don’t have to worry about television or radio or anything. I can just do whatever and if someone calls in and has a serious problem that requires a bit of time, we’re going to spend time working on it. It’s fantastic!
How often do you do it?
The podcasting medium allows you to interact with a lot more people.
Definitely. And it’s changed social media for me. Social media had become a very unpleasant place for me. This is what I’m dealing with. [He pulls up his Twitter page, which has a lot of hostile @responses.] Here are the two things that I get tons of: “You’re an asshole”—or some version of that, which I think everyone in public life gets. Or “I’ve been sexually abused, physically abused, I was an abandoned foster child, fix me.” And if I don’t respond to those, which I can’t—I not only can’t fix in that in 140 characters, it would take 10 years of dedication to fix that and it’s practicing across state lines, there are all sorts of issues—people become furious.
I had no idea Twitter was like that for you. I remember when you first joined, you were very active on it.
Now I’m very circumspect.
Do you think about leaving?
No but now that I’m doing podcasting, Twitter has become a way to communicate with the podcasting audience, which I really like. The podcasting audience is probably the most welcoming, kind and grateful audience I’ve ever approached.
Well, I’ve done Adam’s podcast and been ripped apart in their forums because they’re such rabid Adam fans so anyone who’s not him gets criticized at first. You’re probably the only person who they’d welcome right away, since you’re so associated with Adam already.
[Laughs] Yes, I’m anointed by Adam so therefore I’m okay. But I also feel like I’m bringing another audience in—people who are appreciative and who write nice comments and say kind things. I’m not used to that at all. When I go on HLN at night, this thing [pointing to his Twitter page]lights up with, “You’re an asshole.” Look at this one [he shows a Twitter response to him that reads “Your face and the sound of your voice makes me want to punch babies”]. I get shit like that all day long, even life-threatening kind of stuff. Welcome to Twitter.
And it’s been like that since the second you joined Twitter?
I got a million followers pretty fast and it seems like once I got there, that’s when it really got going. But on the other hand, the podcast audience is on there so as soon as I send out a pod, I get these positive messages back, which is drastically different from everything else I’ve experienced on Twitter. So I have a renewed interest in it.
Do you block people?
Only when they get dangerous-sounding or it’s just disgusting. I’m too busy to block everyone on Twitter.
So it was a surprise to suddenly get appreciative comments when you started doing the podcast?
Yes. I think with podcasting, they have to seek you out and download you so they’re disposed to like you—they’re actively engaged with you. I think people have gotten confused about what I’m doing so when they actually get to hear me in a long format, I get to expose who I am.
Without cuts or editing or someone else…
Dictating that, exactly. What people think when they see me on TV is that they’re experiencing me but they’re not. The podcast is me. And it’s very satisfying.
I also think podcasts are so intimate. If I listen to one of the podcasts in the car, it can feel like you and Adam are riding along with me.
Yep. And that reminds me: one thing I’ve never had except maybe when Loveline first went on TV, is people in their car yelling, “I just downloaded your podcast! I’m listening to you and Adam right now!” As they’re waving out of their car. That’s the enthusiasm of the podcast audience. It is a very intimate medium.
How do you handle being misperceived by people?
I won’t do any print interviews anymore. No matter what I say, it gets distorted. If I say, “I love my wife,” the response seems to be, “Sure he does, we found a girlfriend.” The other thing that’s frustrating is I’ll present an opinion that’s based on 20 years of experience and the current research and a reporter will take that and then go out to someone on the street and say, “Well, what do you think?” And they give that equal balance.
I heard you mention on one of the podcasts that 97% of people who suffer from chronic pain were sexually or physically abused.
I heard that at a conference that I went to that doctors had to attend to maintain their licensing—you have to do a certain number of hours of chronic pain training and this was a symposium put on by a big chronic pain academic group and one of the lecturers got up and said, “Well the funny thing about these people is they have this and anyway let’s talk about giving them opiates.” I was shocked. And nowhere anywhere in the symposium did they ever address it.
Has that statistic ever been printed anywhere?
Just talk to people who have chronic pain. It’s always there.
I know, isn’t that crazy? Now I don’t know for sure that that stat is accurate but that’s certainly been my experience with most chronic pain patients. Think of it this way: trauma causes a disconnection of the regions of the brain responsible for perception and emotional regulation. When people have been highly traumatized, they literally don’t grow the proper connections and so the body, particularly if the body was the source of the trauma—if it was, say, physical or sexual abuse—feels the pain…
In order to survive?
Yes. This is something that’s been established by Dr. Allan Schore. It’s a survival strategy that becomes a chronic state and states become traits. The trauma becomes a trait: the body is disconnected from the emotional system and the higher centers in the brain and the frontal cortex. So the brain is left behind to tell its tale of woe and the body has no other way to do that than through pain. So pain is the body’s equivalent of PTSD. When researchers study pain, they see a high propensity of activation in a part of the brain called the insula cortex. You have two areas of processing pain: one is the somatic area—like what’s hurting, how is it hurting, how bad is it hurting, what do you feel—and the affective charge of the pain, which is more like: Should I be freaked out? Am I having misery? And that’s the part that’s going insane during chronic pain.
But why isn’t a statistic like that one about trauma used in terms of treating addiction?
Well, here’s my stat: if you have bad enough addiction to see me, there is 100% probability that you suffered from trauma. I’ve always said that. Trauma super charges addiction and makes it really bad. It doesn’t necessarily cause it, though it can trigger it. It’s not necessarily the issue but if you have bad addiction, it’s there.
What’s your exact definition of addiction?
This is based on an old conference published decades ago: addiction is a biological disorder with a genetic basis. The hallmark is progressive use and/or preoccupation in the face of consequences—work, school, finance, health, relationships or legal status. And denial. You need some evidence of family history; you need progression in the face of consequences and some unwillingness to look at it. There it is. And to me, that’s someone who needs treatment, even if they’re in the early stages. Because it will progress.
On your podcast, one guy called in because he was concerned he was an alcoholic and he talked about drinking a lot but you said to him, “I actually don’t think you’re an alcoholic.” How could you tell?
Well, we started this conversation by talking about intuition and I get a gut feeling when I’m around alcoholic and addicts.
Even over the phone?
Oh, yeah. And it’s a pretty good indicator. It’s my right brain. I did lots of therapy developing my right brain and I’ve worked on the skill of using that intuition carefully and I can trust it. That’s the part you don’t learn in medical school, ever.
Your poor kids, when you have an intuition like that. They can’t get away with anything!
No. But they’re now adults. They’re 20. And they’re doing their thing. They kind of know that I know whatever they’re into.
This is the third in a three-part series of her interviews with Dr. Drew.
Photo courtesy of CNN. Used with permission
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