A Survivor winner who went on The Dr. Phil Show in 2013 to discuss his alcoholism says his drunken appearance, during which he blew o.26 into a breathalyzer administered by Dr. Phil McGraw, was enabled by Xanax and alcohol provided by the show.
According to an investigation reported by Stat, a medical publication under the Boston Globe, Todd Herzog says that prior to his 2013 appearance, which required McGraw and producers to carry and lift him into his seat, he was sober. Herzog’s story is a part of a larger investigation into the show’s treatment of guests battling alcohol or drug addictions, which concluded that guests are left without medical help, some even enabled, after their appearances. Other guests and family members of guests spoke to reporters for the investigation.
Battling alcoholism since his win on Survivor: China in 2007, Herzog told Stat and Globe reporters that his parents had contacted the show to get him help, and were scheduled on the show a day after reaching out.
The show flew the family into Los Angeles, where Herzog says he detoxed in his hotel room over two days. After arriving on set, sober and shaking, Herzog says he spoke to his father before going to his own dressing room, where he says he was supplied with two liters of vodka. Being unsupervised, he says he drank the entire bottle, then was given Xanax to “calm his nerves.” Herzog’s father confirmed his son was sober when he arrived at the studio.
The 2013 appearance, since uploaded to the show’s YouTube page, shows Herzog slurring words, having to be assisted by two people to walk into the studio for the taping, then to his chair. After two minutes of being interviewed by McGraw, Herzog is told to blow into a breathalyzer, which detects that his blood alcohol content is more than three times over the legal limit to drive.
Herzog began treatment but continued to drink after his appearance. In a 2014 follow-up, his third appearance on the show, Herzog was 112 days sober and said that he didn’t remember most of what happened during the taping. He told reporters that he found vodka in his dressing room again that time, and drank some of it. Herzog initiated a fourth appearance in 2016 after relapsing because he wanted access to rehabilitation resources, and said he was supervised by a handler and given a shot of alcohol to prevent him from seizing during the taping. He says he doesn’t remember what happened during the taping itself. Herzog, now 32, told reporters that he is currently sober and is “living again.”
Martin Greenberg, a psychologist who’s the show’s director of professional affairs, denied that the show provides guests with alcohol or directs them to places they can purchase drugs, an allegation made to Stat and the Globe by a different guest’s aunt. He also denies Herzog was supplied with vodka while alone or given Xanax, calling Herzog’s recounting “absolutely, unequivocally untrue.”
Over several weeks, though, Greenberg told reporters conflicting accounts: First, that the show wasn’t a medical facility, nor was it responsible for monitoring guests. He then said Herzog and other guests dealing with substance abuse were medically supervised “100 percent of the time.” Later he said, “100 percent of guest [agree] to treatment,” but are not monitored all the time.
Greenberg initially said Herzog flew with a nurse-practitioner to L.A., had a nurse with him at the hotel, and was also supervised by a medical professional from the local treatment center Herzog was later admitted to. However, Steve Thomason, the executive director of the Georgetown, Texas, treatment center Herzog agreed to go for help, said his staff couldn’t offer medical supervision in California because they’re licensed in Texas. Thomason said Herzog’s mother had also told him that Herzog had arrived at the studio sober, though the mother declined to comment.
“I get that it’s a television show and they want to show the pain that I’m in. However, what would have happened if I died there? You know?” Herzog told Stat and Globe reporters.