- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh announced on his radio program yesterday that he is addicted to painkillers and would enter a rehab center to remedy the situation.

“I have always tried to be honest with you and open about my life,” Mr. Limbaugh told his audience, which numbers 22 million listeners a week. “So I need to tell you today that part of what you have heard and read is correct. I am addicted to prescription pain medication.”

He continued, “Immediately following this broadcast, I am checking myself into a treatment center for the next 30 days to once and for all break the hold this highly addictive medication has on me.”

The medication in question is said to be OxyContin, an opiate-based narcotic legally prescribed for moderate or severe pain, but nicknamed “hillbilly heroin” because it has been easily obtained and abused in rural areas.

Mr. Limbaugh posted a statement and a videotape of his broadcast on his Web site (www.rushlimbaugh.com) yesterday afternoon.

The revelation caps a difficult month for Mr. Limbaugh, 52, who resigned from a three-week stint as an ESPN sports analyst Oct. 1 after his remarks about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb caused an uproar among journalists, athletes and some politicians.

During a live telecast Sept. 28, Mr. Limbaugh contended that Mr. McNabb had been given undue credit for his team’s success by journalists “very desirous that a black quarterback do well.”

His remarks were later deemed “racist” by some members of the press and “absurd and offensive” by Howard Dean, a Democratic candidate for president. But that was just the beginning of Mr. Limbaugh’s well-publicized troubles.

Rumors of his drug addiction appeared in the National Enquirer the day after he resigned from ESPN, based on the claims of a housemaid who said she helped him obtain powerful black-market painkillers for four years, including OxyContin and another codeine-based painkiller.

“All these pills are enough to kill an elephant, never mind a man,” the maid told the supermarket tabloid.

The story was immediately amplified in print and broadcast reports, which billed Mr. Limbaugh a “moralizing motormouth” and a “lightning rod for controversy,” among other things.

“The Darling of Dittoheads everywhere could be a racist, a dope addict or both. Does it seem as if some kind of cosmic justice is at work here?” asked a San Francisco Chronicle columnist.

Yesterday, Mr. Limbaugh said press accounts about his addiction “contained inaccuracies and distortions.” He promised to explain himself fully after an investigation by “authorities” is completed.

The Associated Press, the New York Daily News and other news organizations reported this week that Mr. Limbaugh, who lives in Palm Beach, Fla., had been implicated in an ongoing Florida State Attorney’s Office investigation a local drug ring.

Officials have yet to confirm his involvement, however.

“I’m not a victim. I’m not going to portray myself as a victim. I take full responsibility for myself,” Mr. Limbaugh said, telling his listeners that their support in recent days “literally has sustained me.”

His struggle with narcotics has persisted for years, Mr. Limbaugh said. He has sought help from unnamed medical facilities on two other occasions for treatment of painkiller addiction, he said, the result of unsuccessful spinal surgery for two herniated disks. Physicians prescribed medication for chronic pain in his neck and lower back.

“I am still experiencing that pain,” Mr. Limbaugh said yesterday.

His oft-quoted syndicated radio show will continue with guest hosts during his month-long absence.

“I’m not making any excuses,” Mr. Limbaugh said, noting that he placed little credence in public adulation of celebrities who go through drug rehabilitation.

“They are greeted with great fanfare for conquering demons … well, I want you to know I’m no role model,” he said.

His announcement created an instantaneous broadcast forum for doctors and mental health experts yesterday who praised Mr. Limbaugh’s “honesty” and predicted his rehabilitation would be difficult.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer theorized that Mr. Limbaugh’s drug use “may explain why he said what he said about Donovan McNabb.”

This is not the first time Mr. Limbaugh has shared personal travails with his audience. In late 2001, he announced he was growing deaf. He eventually restored his hearing through anti-inflammatory medications and a cochlear implant.

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