Driving under the PR influence

It should come as no surprise that Rep. Patrick Kennedy is currently treatment for “addiction to prescription pain medication.” This is not surprising because of his family heritage or his own personal history of problems with substance abuse but because that is what always gets said under these circumstances.

This phrase comes like clockwork from the PR reps of every movie star, musician or other demi celeb who gets busted behind the wheel. It must be in some handbook under “what to do when client gets busted for weaving across the white lines even if he or she has in fact been snorting them.”

It is such a wonderful wording, cleanly and quickly making it clear you haven’t been doing anything grossly illegal. You weren’t stoned out of your gourd on horse tranquillizers. You hadn’t just smoked the entire agricultural output of Northern California. You just took to many of those damn pills that the doctor gave you. It was medication, right? It was prescribed, right? You were just doing what you were supposed to and things got a little out of hand. That after all is what happened to Rush Limbaugh.

“He became addicted to pain killing drugs, prescribed by his physician for a medical condition.” OK, so The King Of The Dittoheads allegedly bought 1,733 hydrocodone pills, 90 OxyContin pills, 50 Xanax tablets and 40 time-release morphine pills – an amount even Elvis would have found excessive – but they were PRESCRIBED!

Judging by how often it is invoked, prescription pain killers must also carry less stigma than saying you were fece-faced from chugging down a few fifths of whatever. Alcoholism in the PR world implies lack of control whereas medication abuse sound much more like one of those things you could just stumble into.

Let’s get one thing clear, I have no reason to doubt that Rep. Kennedy was in fact incapacitated by something his doctor told him to take. He has even named names — blaming his driving misadventure on “Ambien, a sleeping pill, and another medication, Phenergan, for treatment of a stomach disorder.” And why not believe him? He has been very forthright about his problems before and just based on odds alone, abuse of prescribed meds must happen to at least some of the celebs who claim it. But it remains a phrase that should at least raise the eyebrow of anyone who reads or hears it.