Each week after Rehab With Dr. Drew, we’ll be talking to some of the staff on hand at the Pasadena Recovery Center to find out everything that happened in front of and behind the camera with this season’s group of patients. This week we spoke to Dr. John Sharp, who appeared last season on Celebrity Rehab and was this season’s Associate Medical Director, Psychiatrist on Call, and Director of Aftercare for the program. Dr. Sharp worked closely with the patients to make sure they remained stable and successful throughout the recovery process.
This episode features you pretty prominently because you made the call to send Drewbee to a hospital for observation after he ran away from the recovery center. Let me first ask what was going on on your end when you heard he was actually taking to the streets and had left.
I was at the Pasadena Recovery Center when he wandered off, and it did surprise us in that moment, although it has been brewing since family weekend. We’ve seen all along how withdrawn and remote Drewbee often got, and how he would typically refuse to explain his thinking. So when suddenly he was gone, it set off alarm bells for me because as a doctor, Dr. Drew and I have a responsibility to make sure he was actually competent. It’s possible for a person to really not have the wherewithal to recognize the risk that they’re putting themselves in by refusing treatment or, in this case, leaving treatment, so I felt sure we needed to do everything we could to get him back so he could have a complete psychiatric evaluation in a hospital. He couldn’t leave again until we knew he had the mental capacity to make that decision.
There was a differing opinion about his being sent to a hospital, some of the counselors with an expertise in abuse treatment had a differing opinion that it wasn’t up to us to judge someone who wasn’t ready for treatment or who wants to go use, how it’s up to them and we can only hope they’ll come back to treatment, there was some room for debate there. But Dr. Drew and I believed, as physicians, that we had an ongoing responsibility to try to make sure he was really competent to do that. In the end we were all united around the fact that this was what needed to be done. We sent Drewbee on to a nearby hospital which was very good in order for him to be assessed and that was to keep him safe and to continue his treatment and get him to become aware of what he needs to do on his part and to help him. Help him understand how overwhelmed he was feeling and how over-stimulated he was and hep him learn to get to a better state of mind.
You mentioned at one point that if he just got the right medical treatment for his mental issues, that those were pretty easily reparable. What kind of treatment would he need to work on his mental state in order to then get back into a rehab frame of mind?
Hi problems, as severe as they were, are easily repaired, easily as in on paper, we could write down a plan that should work. They’re hard though, because they require him to tolerate more distress than he believes he can. To go through the motions of accepting support and instituting practices of self-relaxation that he initially didn’t believe would be worthwhile, looking at the role of medication adjustments in order to help him. On paper, it doesn’t seem so difficult, you put certain actions into practice, you make sure the medications are adjusted to empower you to do more than you could without them, and all of those techniques worked. Drewbee did learn that the combination of these things together allowed him a much clearer mind that wasn’t so preoccupied with anger and frustration. He’s now doing much better than when even seemed possible.
How did his parents react when you made the decision to send him to the hospital?
His parents were very involved. They came to trust us and that allowed them to position themselves so that he could really begin to get well. They had still been around, they hadn’t left yet after family weekend, so I called them and asked them to come by and we wanted their presence and support when we got Drewbee back to the recovery center and before we sent him on to the hospital. We reinforced the importance of their trusting us and not rescuing him. My biggest fear was that they would rescue him from the circumstances he was in like they’d done so many times before. In fact, if they did offer that support to him, a flight home, a place to stay, he would actually be gravely disabled. For them to leave him to his own fate without their help, it was possible for us to make the case that he was potentially a danger to himself.
Drewbee has been so set on leaving rehab, but by the end when he was taken away to the hospital, he didn’t resist at all. Did he give up resisting by then?
I think he gave in to the fact that this was going to happen. Part of him recognized that it actually made some sense, even though initially it was something that didn’t make any sense to him at all. When he was first taking off, he was out on the sidewalk heading off into an unsafe area. I was able to run and catch up with him just before he left the property and for a moment, I grabbed his arm and said “Drewbee, you can’t do this,” and he looked at me holding him and shook me off and gave me a look like “You can’t cross that physical boundary, you can’t touch me,” and I felt for a moment like I had provoked him by putting a hand on him and I thought, “Oh my gosh, there’s nothing I can say here that’s going to work.” That’s where we started. Where we wound up, getting him into the ambulance and going to the hospital, he was in a much better place. He recognized he had to go and this was something he needs which is happening for a reason. He did seem to respond to all the caring that was going on on his behalf.