Breaking Down the Dr. Drew Controversy

On April 24th, 2014, Dr. Drew spoke with a male caller on his nationally syndicated radio show, Loveline, who was concerned about his girlfriend’s multiple medical disorders, which included, but was not limited to, Interstitial Cystitis, Endometriosis, Lactose Intolerance and “no stomach lining”.  We’re going to leave that last one out of this conversation because a) it is a nonsensical statement from a layman and b) has no bearing on this conversation.  Admittedly, I scoffed at that description much the same way Dr. Drew did.  Anyway, male caller was expressing concern about these multiple maladies his girlfriend had.  Dr. Drew’s reply lit the internet on fire. Dr. Drew goes on to tell the caller these are “functional disorders”.  Basically what that means is, there is something disrupting the normal process of the body, however, everything appears normal and the origin of the disruption cannot be located (remember this statement, it will become very important later).  Dr. Drew then went on to say that those conditions are “garbage can diagnoses”.  As a nurse, I can tell you that that phrase often comes up when one of two things occurs:  Either a) we can’t find a thing wrong with the patient so we give them some fancy word to cling to in an attempt to validate them or b) they are completely and utterly full of shit.  In my entire career as a nurse, I have never once heard any professional I have worked with refer to ANY diagnosis as a garbage can diagnosis.

Drew goes on to say that “garbage can diagnoses” is what you say when you can’t think of anything else to diagnose a patient with.  Technically, that would be correct.  What is INCORRECT, however, is that Interstitial Cystitis and Endometriosis fall into that category.  Let me continue with Dr. Drew’s conversation to the caller before we delve into that piece of garbage can advice.

He then refers to the callers girlfriend as “somatically preoccupied”.  This means that the patient does NOT have a disorder at all, but rather, a psychological disorder that makes them believe something is wrong with them.  At this point, he then goes on to tell the caller that he wonders why she is seeing doctors all the time. (NOTE: Caller NEVER said this at the beginning of his call, this was purely an assumption by Drew at this point).  Caller states that his girlfriend actually rarely goes to see a doctor unless he pushes her to do so, based on her pain.  He says, in the three years they were together, she had only been to the doctor at least twice.  Here is where I side with Dr. Drew, when he goes on to say, “trust me, she saw LOTS of doctors” in her past, as she could not possibly be diagnosed with all those ailments in a mere two visits.  He is absolutely correct on that statement, as the average IC or Endo sufferer usually sees three to four doctors and/or has an average of four visits to doctors and specialists before she is “officially” diagnosed.  I concur with the good doctor on this assessment.

The next statement Drew makes is “was she sexually abused while growing up”?  When the caller states that she suffered some form of sexual abuse, (this occurs LATER in the conversation) he is never clear on what the definition of her sexual abuse was.  Was she raped?  Molested as a child?  Touched inappropriately by a family member or friend?  Or, did her sexual abuse mean she was taken advantage of by an older boyfriend? Did this occur as an adult woman? This abuse she suffered was never made clear, yet Dr. Drew starts to exclaim that he was “MAGICALLY” correct!  (Cue the peacock feathers as he struts around the station!)  However, what IS made clear by the caller is that while Drew is busy crowing over being right, the caller VERY clearly said “not growing up, though”.  This means that Dr. Drew was NOT correct about his assessment that she was abused as a child.  He, however, didn’t bother to expound on that.  Likely, he didn’t even hear the caller saying that, because he was too busy whooping it up for being MAGICALLY right.  And, as we all know, being right is so much more fun than the facts!

The next statement made by Dr. Drew is probably the one I found the most disconcerting of all.  He says:

“And when people have unexplained pain, particularly pelvic pain, it’s called ‘somatoform dissociation‘ and the only way her body, which was suffering during those early experiences, can tell its tale of woe is with pain and she really needs to see a trauma specialist and not a urologist.”

Now, this is where I stop with the verbatim and start being verbose.

First, somatoform dissociation is a nice way of saying, that shit is all in your head, Princess.  But, let’s break down a few things regarding this statement and try to stick to the facts:

  1. Dr. Drew did NOT acknowledge that the caller clearly said she was NOT abused as a child.
  2. Dr. Drew NEVER asked the caller when her symptoms began.  Without this knowledge, how can he make the association between her “abuse” she suffered and when the pelvic issues began?  How could he possibly know if she had these symptoms PRIOR to the abuse she suffered as a child ADULT?
  3. Why would you advise a caller to tell his fiancee that she needs to see a trauma specialist and not a urologist when you have ZERO knowledge of whether or not she has seen a psychiatrist in the past?  You never inquired.  You’re making a lot of assumptions here, Doc.
  4. And this is a biggie:  Interstitial Cystitis and Endometriosis are VERY REAL PHYSICAL DISORDERS.

Now, there were a lot of assumptions made on the part of Dr. Drew throughout this conversation that the caller was never invited to clarify.  However, this podcast sparked outrage in women all over the internet because, bottom line is, we were just set back to the dark ages.  Back to a time when complaints from women regarding pelvic pain meant that we were being “hysterical” (in case you ever wondered where the root of the word “hysterectomy” came from, there ya go, Folks!)  Let’s think for a moment about what could have possibly happened after the caller hung up the phone with Dr. Drew.

HER:  “Honey, my IC is acting up.  I’m in a lot of pain.”
HIM:  “Bullshit, Bitch.  Dr. Drew said it’s all in your head.”

Because THAT is the problem with Interstitial Cystitis in the first place.  It is a very hard disease to diagnose and almost impossible to treat.  There is no cure for this disease.  However, unlike what Dr. Drew seems to believe, it IS an extremely real disorder, one that I have had since the age of 14.  Oh, and let me clarify for the good doctor?  I was NEVER sexually abused as a child.  My symptoms began as a teenager.  Want to explain THAT one, Doc?  For years, I was misdiagnosed as having chronic urinary tract infections despite the fact that there was no infection found in my urine.  Still, doctors would hand me a prescription for antibiotics and send me on my merry way.

I’m not going to get into MY story here and now.  If you want to read about my personal journey with Interstitial Cystitis, you can find it in this article I wrote for POSE Magazine in March of this year.

The point of this breakdown is to make clear that Dr. Drew did not act in a very professional manner when taking this call.  Actually, I am being kind.  He was utterly irresponsible and terribly reckless.

The rest of the radio show segment consists of a bunch of sophomoric talk from Drew’s co host about how unexplained pelvic pain can also be caused by having sex with their guest on the show, Alan Thicke.  Tee Hee.  Let the high fiving and frat boy laughter begin.  Dr. Drew replies “that’s not unexplained, that’s impressive!”  Great, Doctor, because nothing makes a woman happier to have her pain and suffering minimized by a board certified internist and surgeon on a national radio show.  Jokes about “splitting women in half” all over California and corpses left in the wake of their MANLY MAN LIKE PENISES!  Of course, this is called “being Pinksyed”, this phenomenon of huge MANLY MAN PENISES causing inexplicable pelvic pain in women from coast to coast!  ARRRR ARRRR ARRRR (cue chest thumps).  You can hear the podcast in full HERE.  Thank you very much to my friend and fellow endometriosis sufferer, Brandi CK, for posting this and being the first to bring it to national attention.

However, all that said, Dr. Drew did offer his sincerest apologies to the endometriosis community when questioned about it on a segment of “Watch What Happens Live” on BRAVO . What he failed to mention is the interstitial cystitis community. The failure there is that IC is a horrific disease that is very hard to discern from other pelvic disorders without extensive testing. It is very common for most IC sufferers to see multiple doctors before getting an accurate diagnosis. It is also very common for us to be told that the pain is all in our heads. More common still is the recognition that most doctors outside of the specialties of Gynecolgy and Urology, even know what Interstitial Cystitis is.  If I had a dollar for every time I had to educate an emergency room attending physician, well, I’d have lots of dollars.  While Dr. Drew, in an attempt to make “nice nice” with a very angry endo community, did host Dr. Tamar Seckin, noted endometriosis specialist, on his podcast shortly thereafter (Ep. 121), he failed to bring on an interstitial cystitis expert. I suppose this was a step in the right direction. However, this is the second time Dr. Drew has made light of Interstitial Cystitis in a matter of two years. This saddens me, because I have always found Dr. Drew to be a great proponent for women and women’s causes.

Still, despite his claim of “multiple apologies”, there is a very real sense that it smacks of #sorrynotsorry which is very disconcerting to those of us who suffer from these maladies.  And we deserve better.  Much better.

So why do this breakdown?  Because as a nurse, as a sufferer of both endometriosis (who ultimately had a hysterectomy in 2011 due to this disease) and interstitial cystitis, which I have had since the age of 14, I felt an enormous responsibility to change the direction of thinking when it comes to these diseases.  I mean, even my computer doesn’t recognize “endometriosis”, as it keeps trying to change the word to “optometrist”.  Click “add to dictionary” and problem solved.   Oh, if it were only that easy to educate physicians. Click “insert diagnosis into brain”. Downloading education.  Uploading compassion. Problem solved.

Perhaps an “optometrist” is necessary though, as you would have to be blind not to see the facts.  Interstitial cystitis and endometriosis affect millions of women every single year, causing debilitating pain, chronic suffering, fertility issues and depression.  Instead of blinders, I prefer a pair of rose colored glasses and continue my (naive) belief that there will be a cure for IC sometime in the future.  So long as doctors like Dr. Drew continue to get their facts straight and spread truth about this disease instead of conjecture and lies, we might have a fighting chance.

Now, if you’ll excuse me.  I have to pee.


2 thoughts on “Breaking Down the Dr. Drew Controversy

  1. Jill Osborne, IC Network Founder & President

    BRAVO!!!! :::stands and applauds::: This is what I wanted to say but really couldn’t say on our official Interstitial Cystitis Network blog. Girl, you discussed this PERFECTLY! As my friend Julie Beyer pointed out, aside from Dr. Drew’s utter lack of education and empathy towards IC, the attitude of the cohost who not only called pain patients “C’s” and “Tw’s”… and then suggested that they come down to the station and give him a blow job, was so filled with hate towards women. Why Dr. Drew would appear with someone who is clearly misogynistic and who dares to mock women who are suffering, is unfathomable. Women’s Organizations should be up in arms about this…seriously, in 2014??


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reload the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code