April 29, 2006
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. -A three-year investigation into drug use by Rush Limbaugh ended abruptly when the conservative commentator was booked on a single charge of prescription fraud in a deal his attorney says spares him a trial.
  The charge will be dropped if Limbaugh continues treatment, attorney Roy Black said Friday.
  “He feels that a great burden has been lifted from his shoulders,” he said. “What he told me is that this is the first day of the rest of his life."
  Limbaugh surrendered at the Palm Beach County Jail and was booked on a warrant charging him with “doctor shopping,” when a patient illegally deceives multiple physicians to receive overlapping prescriptions.
  The 55-year-old commentator left an hour later, after he was photographed and fingerprinted and he posted $3,000 bail, said Teri Barbera, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.
  Under the terms of the deal with prosecutors called a pretrial diversion, to be filed Monday, Limbaugh will be cleared of the charge if he stays clean for 18 months and doesn’t violate any laws, Black said.
  Limbaugh has publicly acknowledged being addicted to pain medication.
  According to the warrant, sometime between February and August 2003, Limbaugh withheld information from a medical practitioner from whom he sought to obtain a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance.
'He was in high spirits'
  As a formality, Limbaugh entered a not guilty plea to the charge, spokesman Tony Knight said. The radio giant has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation.

  “He was in high spirits,” Knight said. “It was all a formality. It’s a concluded deal."
  Under the deal, Limbaugh also agreed to pay the state $30,000 to defray the public cost of the investigation and must pay $30 per month for the cost of supervision, during which time he will continue regular drug tests.
  Mike Edmondson, spokesman for the state attorney’s office, said prosecutors had not yet received the signed agreement.
  “I am not disputing the facts, the conditions that Black represented, but until his client signed the agreement, we don’t have a full agreement,” Edmondson said. “I am sure it’s just a timeline issue."
  He refused to comment further.
Clean for 2½ years
  Black said Limbaugh has been drug free for 2½ years. After 18 months, “he will not have any criminal record,” he said.

  Prosecutors began investigating Limbaugh in 2003 after The National Enquirer reported his housekeeper’s allegations that he had abused OxyContin and other painkillers. He soon took a five-week leave from his radio show to enter a rehabilitation program and acknowledged he had become addicted to pain medication. He blamed it on severe back pain.
  “The agreement that we entered into makes good common sense,” Black said. “The idea is to help the person overcome the addiction ... There should be a recognition that people like Rush really should not be prosecuted."
  Prosecutors seized Limbaugh’s medical records after learning that he received about 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion. The investigation was held up as prosecutors and Black battled in court over whether the records were properly seized.
  Limbaugh reported five years ago that he had lost most of his hearing, saying it was caused by an autoimmune inner-ear disease. He had surgery to have an electronic device placed in his skull to restore his hearing. But research shows that abusing opiate-based painkillers can also cause profound hearing loss.
  Before his own problems became public, Limbaugh had decried drug use and abuse and mocked President Clinton for saying he had not inhaled when he tried marijuana. He often made the case that drug crimes deserve punishment.
  “Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. ... And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up,” Limbaugh said on his short-lived television show on Oct. 5, 1995.
  During the same show, he commented that statistics that show blacks go to prison more often than whites for the same drug offenses only illustrate that “too many whites are getting away with drug use."

San Francisco Examiner
Oct. &, 2003
OxyContin rushes into state's drug lexicon
By Clay Lambert
  If you believe a woman named Wilma Cline, the nationally syndicated radio personality Rush Limbaugh would drive three miles from his $23 million Palm Beach, Fla., estate to a Denny's parking lot so that she could hand over a cigar box concealing dozens of tiny prescription painkillers. The loquacious Limbaugh, his housekeeper says, was often high on "hillbilly heroin."
  Limbaugh has not been charged with any crime. But in the court of public opinion, the jury on the East Coast is more likely to nod in knowing disapproval because OxyContin is never far from the headlines. Meanwhile, in California, Limbaugh's listeners are probably wondering: What in the world is OxyContin?
  One of 59 prescription pain-relievers using the active ingredient oxycodone, OxyContin is most commonly prescribed for cancer patients and others with chronic, debilitating pain. Oxycodone is not new. Neither is its potential for abuse. German researchers noted "striking euphoria" among users of the drug as early as the 1920s, according to a DEA position paper.
  Police didn't become alarmed until 1995, when drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma began producing a powerful time-released version it called OxyContin.
  The brand, which is lauded by pain-control advocates, has proven to be the scourge of law enforcement east of the Continental Divide.
  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports 454 deaths in 32 states were likely due to OxyContin abuse in 2000 and 2001. The agency determined that nearly 11,000 emergency room visits were due to OxyContin abuse in 2001, a number that has tripled since 1996. The states of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia all report that at least 50 percent of new drug treatment patients land in rehab due to OxyContin.
Yet in the Bay Area -- a place much of the country considers synonymous with drug abuse because of the excesses of the 1960s -- the painkiller is all but unheard of.
  "I can't remember a case and I've been here a year and a half," said Capt. Trisha Sanchez, commander of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Narcotics Task Force. "There may be individual cases that I wouldn't have heard of, but we haven't seen anything significant."
  Why? Why would a drug have such lethal consequences seemingly everywhere but here?
  OxyContin abuse took root in rural communities and quickly became just another cash crop. Down-and-out drug users began pilfering painkillers prescribed to relatives. Before long, they were complaining to their own doctors of phantom ailments that would require medication for pain. Then pharmacies were targeted. Hundreds of pharmacies in the east will no longer carry the drug because it has become such a fashionable target for thieves.
  Rich Meyer, a special agent in the DEA's San Francisco field office, has an economic theory to explain why the drug has been slow to take hold in California. OxyContin sells for about $1 per milligram on the street, Meyer notes. That means a single 80-milligram pill would cost $80. Mexican "black tar" heroin can be found on California city streets in $20 packets.
  The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy posits that methamphetamine is king here, crowding out all other drugs.
  "The San Francisco Bay Area has become a major center for production and distribution of methamphetamine," according to a profile compiled by the Drug Control Policy Office. "Most of the methamphetamine used in the United States is from trafficking groups operating with the supply from California."
  California's profile mentions OxyContin only once: "In Los Angeles, the diversion and abuse of OxyContin is considered somewhat serious."
  "People have preferences," explained Gabrielle Antolovich, executive director of the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Silicon Valley chapter. "It's pretty common that there are East Coast drugs and West Coast drugs."
  But Terrence McGee says that might all be changing.
  "I would say we see three or four cases every three months," said McGee, lead counselor for First Chance, a non-profit drug treatment center in San Mateo County. "A lot of people are scared of heroin, but people get this medication from their doctor. They don't understand that you can be addicted in five days. They don't realize the consequences."
  And McGee noted that prescription drug use is far more acceptable in the suburbs than heroin addiction.
  "I would say that, yeah, we will be seeing more of this -- especially in San Mateo County," he said.