What a Rush!

Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has been revealed a long-time illicit user of powerful prescription drugs.
Limbaugh’s daily talk show is syndicated on about 600 stations, and has about 20 million regular listeners. He is estimated to earn $200 million each year.

In October 2003, Wilma Cline, Limbaugh’s former housekeeper, told the National Enquirer that she had been supplying Limbaugh with large quantities of OxyContin, hydrocodone and Lorcet pills for over four years. She kept ledgers documenting how many pills she had supplied, and at some points he was averaging 100 pills a day.

Cline told the Enquirer that she became Limbaugh’s pill connection in 1998, nine months after being hired as a housekeeper at his Palm Beach mansion.

Cline’s husband, David, hurt himself in a fall, and Limbaugh asked if she could “spare a couple” of her husband’s pain relief pills. Cline said she gave her boss 10 of her husband’s hydrocodone pills the next day, and then kept supplying him with 30 more pills each month.

According to Cline, Rush became “nasty and bullying” when the doctor stopped renewing David’s prescription in early 1999, demanding that she get more pills.

Cline found a new supplier and kept Limbaugh’s pills coming, even after she quit as his housekeeper in July 2001. Cline said Limbaugh became increasingly paranoid, sometimes frisking her for wires.

Limbaugh swore off the pills and privately went through detox in 1999 and 2002. But each time he soon went back to demanding more pills from Cline. Two weeks before his second detox, Limbaugh emailed Cline: “Just two weeks… I kind of want to go out with a bang, if you get my drift. Hee hee hee.”

In mid-2003, Limbaugh’s lawyers paid Cline $100,000 to destroy all records of their transactions, including dozens of emails which Limbaugh had sent, begging her to score him pills. Cline accepted the money, but soon retained a lawyer, contacted police, and ratted on Limbaugh.

Fall from grace

After his pill-popping ways were revealed, many of Rush’s fans claimed that he was not the same as the “drug addicts” he had demonized on his show.

“From a moral standpoint, there’s a difference between people who go out and seek a high and get addicted, and the millions of Americans dealing with pain who inadvertently get addicted,” arch-conservative Gary Bauer told Newsweek.

Yet this is clearly a weak argument. People use drugs like OxyContin and herbs like marijuana for much the same reason: they like the effects, whether they be therapeutic or social in nature. Rush enjoyed his pills, and that shouldn’t be a crime, not for him, not for anyone.

Limbaugh has shown that a heavy opiate user can be highly functional, and that if there was not such a high level of shame and prohibition attached to opiate use, he could likely have a safer way to satisfy his cravings than endless quantities of his “little blue babes.”

Sadly, Limbaugh’s situation has also demonstrated the hypocrisy of the drug war. Had he been poor, or lesser-known, he would almost certainly be in prison instead of just rehab.