- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

Rush Limbaugh told listeners yesterday he feels “reborn” at age 52 as a result of his five weeks of treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers.

“I’m nervous. I have butterflies in my stomach. I’ve been anticipating this moment since last Wednesday afternoon, after being discharged from the treatment center,” the nation’s most popular talk-radio host said when he returned to the airwaves after spending 33 days in an Arizona rehabilitation center.

Mr. Limbaugh said he recognizes that some view him as a “hypocrite because I was using drugs,” given his credentials as a staunch conservative and advocate of law and order. “But my behavior does not change right and wrong. … I knew it was wrong the whole time,” he said.

“I was a drug addict from 1996 or 1995 until just a few weeks ago. I still am.”

Like those in popular 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, Mr. Limbaugh said: “I have to admit I’m powerless over my addiction.”

He said he realizes he needed help in battling his addiction. “I couldn’t have done it on my own. This was much more than treatment for addiction to painkillers. I have to put this recovery I’m in first and foremost.”

On Oct. 10, Mr. Limbaugh told his radio audience of 20 million a week that he began taking prescription painkillers after spinal surgery in the mid-1990s.

Some published reports have said the specific drug Mr. Limbaugh is dependent on is OxyContin, a highly addictive form of morphine.

Asked yesterday if overcoming addiction to OxyContin or other prescription painkillers can be accomplished in four or five weeks, Dr. Rodney Burbach, medical director of the addiction program at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, said no.

“An addict is never cured,” he said. “Four weeks is not going to give a cure, but it will give a first step.

“The crucial thing to remember about addiction is that an addict retains vulnerability to get in trouble with a drug” for many years, Dr. Burbach said.

Mr. Limbaugh told listeners he’s been overwhelmed by the number of supportive phone calls and e-mails he’s received. “They’ve been so voluminous.”

He laughed on the air yesterday when he discovered an e-mail from someone “who thinks this is a publicity stunt.”

Mr. Limbaugh pleaded innocent to charges that he has often bad-mouthed drug addicts on his radio show. He said he often avoided discussions about illegal drug use since he wanted to keep his own abuse “secret.”

In some cases, he said, he pretended he was ignorant about certain drugs, so as not to arouse suspicions.

Mr. Limbaugh said that the five weeks he spent in rehabilitation taught him more about himself than anything he’s previously ever experienced.

“I spent the most educational and informative five weeks on myself that I’ve ever spent,” he said.

In his opening remarks yesterday, Mr. Limbaugh said his addiction to prescription painkillers did not affect positions he took on issues.

One woman who called yesterday praised Mr. Limbaugh for his honesty. “Even more honesty will come,” he vowed.

He said he recognizes some people mistakenly believe the kind of rehabilitation program he was enrolled in produces only “spineless liberals.” But he said that was definitely not the case with him, and there was no ideological slant to the treatment he received.

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