02/19/12 Rhonda Martin

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Rhonda Martin author of "Stuck" a childrens book about OCD + Phil Smith of Drug War Chronicle & clips of Bill O'Reilly, Dr. Drew and Bill Maher

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / February 19, 2012


ANNOUNCER: Stars can’t always be safe.

REPORTER: Now Whitney and the media:

BILL O’REILLY: Name me one media commentator outside of myself who said, “Hey, Whitney you’d better knock it off or you’re going to be in the ground.”

REPORTER: Bill O’Reilly versus Matt Lauer.

BILL O’REILLY: By covering her behavior and detailing her actions over the years in a way that is shining a very bright light on it. Are journalists supposed to be in the position of conducting interventions? They are supposed to in the position of telling the truth and the truth is if you get into hard drugs you can go any time.

Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, all of these creeps – and I mean they are creeps, alright – celebrating and it’s weak-weak…”Oh let’s party. Let’s get high.” There’s nobody in the media saying, “You know what?! This could lead to death and if it doesn’t lead to death 75% of all child abuse and neglect is done by substance abusers.”


DEAN BECKER: I guess I should thank Fox and the Today Show and a host of other broadcasters for that clip but the response that should have been shoved back down Bill O’Reilly’s throat is that some 90+% of those substance abusers are alcohol abusers.

Well, I’ve never met Snoop Dogg but in as so far as Willie Nelson I’ve shared an herbal cigarette with him on the bus some years back and I can tell you there’s not a finer, funnier, gentler, more talented man on this planet.

You are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network and Pacifica Radio.

We’ll be back in just a moment to conduct our interview with Rhonda Martin, author of “Stuck”, a great children’s book about obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But first, the following segment features Bill Maher and Dr. Drew Pinsky, courtesy HBO.


BILL MAHER: Basically he was saying when a celebrity is using drugs – that’s it.

DR. DREW: Bullshit.

BILL MAHER: Really?!

DR. DREW: Yep, bullshit. The problem is that there’s that sort of attitude out there that, “Hey, they’re just a artistic-type [inaudible] and then they’re dead.”

The fact is the problem now, and this is what’s getting me crazy, is that we have a problem with prescription drugs that is massive. It started with Heath Ledger and when that poor guy died I said, and I’ve said it on programs…

BILL MAHER: It started with Elvis.

DR. DREW: I’ll grant you that but when I was fighting in my clinical life I saw really coming on as a tsunami and when I saw Keith or rather Heath go I thought, “This is the beginning of a tsunami where we’re going to see public figures going one after the other.”

I feel impotent and sad that I couldn’t have done more and now we’re losing Michael Jackson, Amie Winehouse and this is ridiculous and it’s not going to stop here.

BILL MAHER: I think that was a Freudian slip. You meant to say Heath and you said Keith. You were thinking of Keith Richards who’s still alive.

DR. DREW: Absolutely.

BILL MAHER: And not just pharmaceuticals. He does street drugs.

DR. DREW: And, Bill, this is …

BILL MAHER: That’s a message for the kids – do the street drugs, right?!


DR. DREW: But it’s a point well taken which is think of all the rock stars from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Absent IV Heroin. If you were not a IV Heroin user which people die of that…

BILL MAHER: Keith was.

DR. DREW: For the most part if you were a poly-drug user and you did not go to pharmaceuticals you are still with us today. As soon as they went to pharmaceuticals they’re dead. It’s very subtle. It’s very pernicious.

And the thinking is so disturbed because, “Hey, I’m just doing what my doctor told me.”


DEAN BECKER: And now we do have our guest Rhonda Martin. She’s a board-certified, licensed professional clinical councilor. I’ve noticed there’s just been all kinds of coverage since the passage of Whitney Houston. Drug use is suspected in her death, is it not?

RHONDA MARTIN: Yes. The toxicology reports, of course, are not back yet but one could just go by what was found near her at her passing and also what people do know about her past.

DEAN BECKER: There’s a lot of obsessive-compulsiveness in drug use, in addiction and so forth, isn’t there?

RHONDA MARTIN: Well, we find obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder and so many individuals that are addicted to …whether it be the pain killers or the benzodiazepenes like DMX which was one of the bottles found by Whitney…We find that many of the people who have anxiety disorder will use some of those medications to try to self-medicate, to try to find a way to feel OK. It can be a very dangerous process because over time they have to keep adding and then they’ll mix a few things not realizing that the side effects (the drowsiness and dizziness) can compound whenever they’re adding on.

So if they are used to taking, let’s say Xanax, and then they add alcohol and possibly another type of benzodiazepene it’s going to be an exponential side effect that they are going to get. So many times they’re in a dangerous situation (whether it’s behind the wheel driving a car or in a bath tub or somewhere that is dangerous) when they have just had that cocktail that they’ve designed and they don’t really know the outcome of it.

DEAN BECKER: The government spends untold millions…heck, I’m gonna say hundreds of millions of dollars trying to educate kids and their parents about the potential harms of marijuana, in particular, but there’s very little money spent on educating folks to the pitfalls, the dangers in mixing these drugs and alcohol and what might happen. Your response, please.

RHONDA MARTIN: You’re very accurate about that. I agree with that. In fact to support what you just said, the most recent study that we have on the abuse of prescription drug medication has come out of Florida. They have found that in 2009, which is the last year that there was complete study done on all the cases of those who have died of drug overdoses, there were 4 times the number of deaths from prescription drug medication in overdose and abuse forms than were from illegal street drugs.

DEAN BECKER: I was watching Bill Maher last night and Dr. Drew Pinsky and the subject came around to that. He made note of the fact that as the prevalence of these prescription drugs has risen so has the number of deaths. Even including some of those former users of street drugs who thought they were moving to something safer and yet the death toll continues to rise. Your response.

RHONDA MARTIN: That also is a trend that we are seeing. That is what is happening. A lot of times they will find that it’s easier to get because they know exactly what’s in it if it came from a pharmacy or a pain clinic. We are seeing a great deal of that.

Like you said, there really isn’t very much education out there on the side effects of this. Even those that are in the celebrity status or can really have the means of getting whatever they want – many times they don’t even know what the side effects are and how they compound and the dangers of this.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’re speaking with Rhonda Martin. You’ve probably seen her on Fox and other locals, if you will.

Now you wrote a great book called “Stuck” and it deals with the subject of obsessive-compulsive disorder. You could say it’s a children’s book but I think it’s also for their parents as well, is it not?

RHONDA MARTIN: Absolutely. In fact a lot of adults enjoy it and as a matter of fact a lot of teenagers enjoy it. Just to look through and see what does anxiety look like on a daily basis for real in kids and how does this impact family. It’s very, very important to look at.

Even as it ties back into the situation with prescription drug overdosage – these are the kids that have anxiety disorders that are going to have the biggest risk of getting addicted to these kinds of drugs if they ever start them – on these prescription medications – the benzodiazepene then pain killers.

So we want make sure that we have some resources out there for parents to hold onto and look through and talk about with their kids. Ask them if they’re worried about certain topics. Flip through the pages. See what it discusses on a daily basis. For parents to connect and know early on if their child has an issue with anxiety before they get to be teenagers and end up at a party where very prevalent Xanax is at and if they were to experiment with it it would make them feel OK. They would feel wonderful at first. And probably for the first few weeks when they used it they would feel wonderful.

Over time we see in the most recent news media we see what can happen down the road with these prescription medications. So the early awareness of anxiety disorders is the goal here.

DEAN BECKER: I would suppose that anxiety has a large part in the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I think perhaps there’s a bit of it in each of us. In reading through the book I saw the reference to how you deal with numbers as a means to occupy the mind and even to this day I find myself dividing out fractions trying to get as many decimal points as I can when the brain is free to focus on numbers without any real subsequent use for those numbers – it’s just a process that goes on in my head. Your thoughts?

RHONDA MARTIN: I think you’re exactly right. A lot of individuals when they look through this book will identify that there may be three or four of the parts of it and they’ll say, “Wow, do I have OCD because I meet the criteria for these numbers or because I may do a lot of the hand washing or because of my perfectionistic tendencies?”

The answer to that is let’s just say there’s mild, moderate and severe OCD. In cases of moderate and severe it can impact a lot of daily functioning in ways that we don’t really consider positive. But in mild it can have excellent results on a daily basis.

There are very many people that are highly successful, at the tops of their field, that have OCD. What they’ve done is they’ve channeled these tendencies toward their success and it’s put them on top.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we’re speaking with Rhonda Martin, author of a great book for children and adults as well, “Stuck”.

Coming back again to the situation involving Whitney Houston. I didn’t see her on stage looking like a junkie or otherwise incapacitated looking like a street person. Are these drugs automatically addicting? Do they lead to a downward spiral or is it optional?

RHONDA MARTIN: What a great question, Dean. Whitney has stated publically on many occasions that she has some anxiety and that she had just a lot of concern before she would go to events - just the anxiety and a little bit of a panic disorder.

What we find is that when you’re high profile like she is and have, in that case, a pre-Grammy party that night. A week before there was a lot of parties. We know that there’s that persona – that social image – that we all expect when we see her on different shows or when she’s on stage performing.

What individuals that have anxiety or panic disorder do is they calculate in their mind, “What’s it going to take for me to look and act and have the energy that others are going to expect from me tonight at this event.”

They come up with whatever that is in their mind – their drug cocktail or alcohol cocktail for the night – and that’s what they take. And, maybe, by point that Whitney had had a whole week of partying and the fun she was probably exhausted. She entered into a situation where she was in a long, hot bath at that point and that will just lower anxiety to begin with.

One of the best techniques for reducing anxiety is getting into a warm bath or warm shower. It basically just takes away the theological symptoms of anxiety. So the question that I’d like to have answered and hope is answered in the long run is did she calculate in that exhaustion and that anxiety-reducing bath when she determined what she was going to take that she thought would get her through that night.

Sometimes when we’re dealing with these medications and we don’t understand the side effects we fail to calculate in other parts of the environment or our own personality or our own sleep deprivation or exhaustion or taking a bath or other ways that we do things to get rid of the anxiety.

So when you mentioned that she probably looked really good most of the times that we saw her out that’s part of what keeps this drug problem going on. It just keeps taking more and more to look that good on stage all the time.

DEAN BECKER: Your reference there to the calming effect of the bath – that’s actually another part of the equation that should have been considered for her that evening. Am I correct?

RHONDA MARTIN: Absolutely. The bath and the shower is so powerful in helping to reduce current anxiety that when I get phone calls from my patients or their family members, if that patient is having a really, really hard time with anxiety – my number one instruction is always, “Please try to get them to the warm shower or the warm bath. We have to get control of this anxiety that they’re having and this is the only way we can do it right now without giving them additional medication or having them go to the hospital.”

It is very powerful. It is an important piece and those that have anxiety disorder know how well it works.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to ask you about as a kid my mother remarried when I was 10-years-old. We moved when I was 10 and we moved when I was 15. I felt rather alone during those teenage years. It was hard to develop friendships. Is that the kind of thing that leads to anxiety that leads kids to OCD or even towards drug use?

RHONDA MARTIN: Yes. It can be because what happens is there’s a genetic piece that would lead to some anxiety disorders which we’ve seen in a lot of cases and there’s also the environmental component which is if a person would move multiple times – a child maybe goes to two or three different schools.

Whatever that individual is having trouble adapting to and they perceive as being something that is extremely difficult or, in some case, traumatic for them it can be hard for them and it can generate anxiety and, certainly, alcohol would be one way to get an immediate result and to kick some of that away. Xanax would work in that way as well and that’s why it becomes abused over time because it does make a person feel OK.

When you have that reward that kicks in about an hour after you do those things or take those things and you have this continuous reward cycle for a few weeks or months in a row you sometimes are going to need just a little bit more or a little bit different to keep getting that.

So it is those kind of childhood events that maybe the parent isn’t able to attend to at that time because the parent has their own issues that they are going through also. That’s where we find sometimes that councilors are good. They can kind of step in when a parent can’t at a certain time to help a child or teenager through those kind of transitions.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends we’ve been speaking with Rhonda Martin. She’s a recipient of the Reviewers Choice Award from the Midwest Book Review and the Mom’s Choice Award for juvenile books. The name of the book is “Stuck”. It’s a guide for parents and to read to your kids to talk about obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Rhonda, would you please share your website with the listeners.

RHONDA MARTIN: http://www.ocdinkids.com There’s a lot of extra information there for anyone that’s going through a lot of anxiety right now. There’s 6 articles I wrote that I find to be helpful on a daily basis. And to really help you understand if you’re suffering from anxiety there’s even a little test on the website to take.

DEAN BECKER: And some closing thoughts I’d like to include here and that is folks talk about the death of Whitney Houston as being a learning moment – let’s hope we can learn something from this as well. Don’t you think?

RHONDA MARTIN: I think absolutely. Whitney was a very loved and good-hearted person as are many people who suffer from anxiety and certainly someone like her to leave a legacy and such a tragedy but to leave a legacy that may cause some people to look inside and take care of their issues of anxiety in different ways that will take them to a different ending of their life.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. Rhonda Martin, thank you so much.

RHONDA MARTIN: Thank you. My pleasure talking with you, Dean.


(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Light headedness, difficulty concentrating, changes in sex drive, seizures, hallucinations, memory problems, confusion, problems with speech, thoughts of suicide…

{{{ gong }}}

Time’s up!

The answer: Xanax for anxiety.


DEAN BECKER: I am the Reverend Dean Becker of the Drug Truth Network. Standing in the river of reform. Baptising drug warriors to the unvarnished truth. DrugTruth.net.


PHIL SMITH: You ought to see the President’s new drug budget. It’s a real doozy.

DEAN BECKER: Well, long-term listeners know the voice of our next guest, Mr. Phil Smith, who writes for the Drug War Chronicle and is much involved in the Stop the Drug War organization.

He’s taken a look at the U.S. Drug War budget. Have you not, Phil?

PHIL SMITH: As the listeners may know the Obama administration and Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske have been talking about how they don’t want to use the phrase “War on Drugs” anymore because that’s not what they are about. But If you look at their latest budget proposal you can see that the Obama administration may be “talking the talk” about ending the War on Drugs but it’s not “walking the walk.”

DEAN BECKER: The point that proves that, that hits the nail right on the head is the fact that he got elected telling us he was going to let the states decided about medical marijuana but that hasn’t panned out.

PHIL SMITH: They were good on that for a couple of years but then they’ve really gone backwards in the past year much to the dismay of the medical marijuana community and much to the bewilderment of just about everybody. No one can figure out what the Obama administration thinks it gaining from persecuting these medical marijuana providers.

DEAN BECKER: It’s not just that one “domestic issue” though that concerns you though, is it?

PHIL SMITH: Indeed not. When you look at the 2013 federal drug budget it’s really amazing how broad it is and how much of a boondoggle it is for various federal departments. Who gets federal drug money? Let me tell you who.

The Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, the State Department, Transportation Department, Veterans Affairs, the Federal Judiciary, the District of Colombia Courts, the Small Business Administration and even, of course, the Drug Czar’s office.

You’ve got these federal dollars going throughout the federal government. All these bureaucratic fiefdoms lining up to get their share and despite all of the Obama’s administration talk about ending the drug war and despite the dire budget deficit the government finds itself in – the drug ledger went up this year.

26 billion dollars is what Obama wants for 2013.

DEAN BECKER: Well that’s a lot of wheels to keep greased isn’t it?

PHIL SMITH: That’s right and the money gets spread around. I got to point out that the bulk of it goes to the Justice Department and the Pentagon on the enforcement side and to the Department of Health and Human Services and Medicaid on the treatment and prevention side.

The Justice Department is getting about 8 billion dollars, I think. That includes increases for the DEA. That includes a hefty increase for the Bureau of Prisons which to me signals that the Obama administration anticipates having a lot more federal prisoners. That, again, goes against what they say about not wanting to have a War on Drugs.

DEAN BECKER: It always to me kind of centers around the focal point that they can’t talk of success. They can’t talk of the benefit derived from continuing this process. It’s the support of Einstein’s theory that “Doing the same thing over and over again is the very definition of insanity.”

We keep hoeing this same row forever. What’s your thought?

PHIL SMITH: It’s not just the definition of insanity it’s also the dynamics of prohibition. They are up against the iron laws of economics. People are providing a product that other people want. You can remove one seller forever and there’s going to be another one right behind him.

We see that all the time at the local level. The cops will round up 20, 30, 50 people and talk about how they’ve gotten all these drugs off the street and then six months later they have to do it again.

DEAN BECKER: We had a situation with Texas Christian University just about a week ago where they rounded up 18 or 20 students including 6 or 8 from the football team for selling minor amounts of drugs. It’s going to take a huge net to get this done, isn’t it?

PHIL SMITH: Well it will never get done. That’s the way it works. It works for a lot of people that way. It keeps prosecutors busy. It keeps police officers busy. It keeps probation officers busy. It keeps drug testing firms busy. It keeps those DEA agents busy forever battling a war they can never win at great cost to the rest of us.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve heard over a trillion everywhere spent on enforcing these drug laws and I’ve heard as much as 2 and one-half to 3 trillion over the lifetime of the drug war. What have we gained?

PHIL SMITH: We have an awful lot of people in prison. We haven’t made any significant reductions in the availability of drugs. I guess that’s the key marker for success in fighting the drug war. We can’t point to any successes.

DEAN BECKER: What am I leaving out? What should we bring forward from your examination of this government report?

PHIL SMITH: It’s the proposed budget from the Obama administration. That doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Certainly congress can try to decrease or increase various line items of it. The bottom line is it’s the drug war on autopilot.

Obama’s drug war is Bush’s drug war is Clinton’s drug war. Obama’s drug budget is Bush’s drug budget is Clinton’s drug budget. For 25 years we’ve seen the same split in resources in federal drug spending – about 60% goes to law enforcement and about 40% goes to prevention and treatment.

After 20 years we have shifted that – we’re now getting 41.2% for treatment and prevention. At this rate in another quarter century treatment and prevention spending will be about half the federal drug budget.

DEAN BECKER: And it was Richard Nixon who coined the phrase “Drug War” who spent more on treatment, had more balance – a more educated approach. Did he not?

PHIL SMITH: Indeed. Who would have thought at the time that we would look back and think, “Wow, Richard Nixon…what a pragmatic reformer”?

DEAN BECKER: We’re going to have to bring you back to get an update on the corrupt cop stories because despite the fact that we haven’t been reporting it - it continues on, does it not?

PHIL SMITH: It does and you know what else continues is people continue to die in the drug war every week in the United States. I started last year tracking every death that was directly attributable to drug law enforcement in the country. I came up with 55 last year and that’s very …I have a very conservative criteria for that.

This year we’re moving at a faster pace. We already have 11 so far including a police officer in Florida who was shot and killed in a shootout with a suspected meth dealer on Thursday. The meth dealer was also killed. And a man who was killed by a Texas …we’re not sure if he was a Parker County Deputy or a police officer. It was part of a joint task force doing undercover work. They encountered three people. One of them ran and allegedly pulled out a gun so they shot and killed him. That’s number 11 for 2012.

DEAN BECKER: Of course our kids continue to be setup. They send in a beautiful 25-year-old police woman to the high school to buy minor amounts of drugs so they can ruin a dozen lives with a 6 month investigation.

PHIL SMITH: You know that’s just pathetic. What a waste of police resources. How many dollars on salary did we pay to set up some kids to go get weed for some girl they were hot for?! I mean, it’s just absurd.

DEAN BECKER: It is indeed. Phil, my friend, I appreciate your thoughts and for your continued investigation into the parameters of this drug war. Please share your website with the listeners.

PHIL SMITH: http://www.stopthedrugwar.org Come by and check us out. We’ve got all kinds of drug war coverage from around the country and the world.


DEAN BECKER: We’re going to close things out with a little bit more from Bill Maher and Dr. Drew Pinsky.


BILL MAHER: You know when you’re a celebrity, especially on the order of Whitney Houston or Elvis Presley, you can pretty much get anything you want. The one thing you can’t command – any of us – is sleep.

Michael Jackson couldn’t command sleep. That’s why he was like, “Hey doc, I just want to take a power nap – hook me up with the Diprivan.”

Elvis died of insomnia and trying to do that. It seems like when they die it from downers.

DR. DREW: It can be from that. The typical combo is alcohol, benzodiazepene (Valium-type drugs) or analgesic pain medication like Vicoden and that kind of thing.


DEAN BECKER: The following was recorded at the hotel where Whitney Houston died on the night she died at a Clive Davis concert. The speaker, the great Tony Bennett.


TONY BENNETT: First it was Michael Jackson. Then it was Amie Winehouse. And now the magnificent Whitney Houston. I’d like have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs.


DEAN BECKER: I usually close this program with a thought that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag and to please be careful. Now I got to add even when you know what’s in the bag maybe you need to be even more careful.


DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.