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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
rushes into state's drug lexicon
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
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
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.
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
"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
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
The White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy posits that methamphetamine is king here, crowding out all other
"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
"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
"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
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.