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Rush Took as Many as 30 Pills a Day

by PRNewswire Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2003 at 1:21 AM

Rush's fans were sympathetic when he announced his sudden deafness--the result of some kind autoimmune illness. But Suspicion has now turned to his drug habit: repeated large doses of hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin) can cause severe hearing impairment.

Report: Rush Took as Many as 30 Pills a Day

PRNewswire, Oct. 13, 2003

NEW YORK -- None of Rush Limbaugh's friends contacted by Newsweek seemed to know the talk-radio host had a drug problem.

"What's interesting," one of these friends told Newsweek, "is that he apparently hid the pills from his wife." Limbaugh's dependence on painkillers began after an unsuccessful back surgery in the late '90's, reports Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas in the October 20 issue of Newsweek, (on newsstands Monday, October 13).

In last week's radio confessional, Limbaugh told his listeners that he had twice gone to a hospital to detox. "What did he tell his wife when he checked into the treatment center? Unless these were 24- to 48-hour clinics to clean out your system. There's an awful lot of mystery about it," said the friend.

Law-enforcement sources tell Newsweek that Rush Limbaugh's exposure as a pain-pill addict began when his former housekeeper Wilma Cline, 42, showed up at the Palm Beach County state attorney's office late last year eager to alert the cops to her boss's drug use. Her motive remained murky, but her story -- how she had met Limbaugh in parking lots to exchange sandwich bags filled with "baby blues" (OxyContin pills) for a cigar box stuffed with cash-was luridly damning, reports Thomas.

According to Cline, Limbaugh took as many as 30 OxyContin pills a day. It is not clear why Cline went to the authorities. She could still be prosecuted, despite a partial grant of immunity, say law-enforcement sources. The investigation has so far produced an arrest of a Palm Beach County couple accused of pushing hydrocodone and OxyContin.

Journalists who have spent time with Limbaugh have been struck by the contrast between Rush the Radio Know-It-All and the private, ill-at-ease Limbaugh.

Friend Bill Bennett, whose book, "The Moral Compass," Limbaugh touted on radio, says he knew nothing of Limbaugh's pill opping.

"He's a very private man," Bennett told Newsweek. "He takes problems into himself."

Limbaugh lasted only a year in college. He jokes that he flunked Public Speaking. Actually, he got a "D," his speaking teacher, Dr. Bill Stacy, told Newsweek. Limbaugh's father maneuvered him into the communications class,hoping his son would like it enough to stay in college and eventually become a lawyer.

Limbaugh was more interested in riffing off the top of his head.

"You need to make an outline. You need some data to support your assertions," Stacy told young Limbaugh.

Failed Disc Jockey

"Frankly, he wouldn't do those things." He was not much of a success as a disc jockey, either. Fired twice (and briefly on the dole, a detail Limbaugh overlooks when he rants against welfare), Limbaugh finally scored when he replaced Morton Downey Jr., an angry right-wing talk-radio host, on a Sacramento station.

He quickly became the patron saint of conservative talk radio and has stayed on top of the charts for more than a decade. (His most recent contract, signed in 2001 for eight years, was for 5 million.)

But his personal life left something to be desired.

His self-absorption made dating difficult. Two women who dated Limbaugh told conservative activist (and Limbaugh friend) Paul Weyrich that they couldn't seem to get his attention. "They both said, 'I'll never go on a date with him again'," Weyrich told Newsweek. "They did not have a good time. He talked about himself and didn't seem interested in them at all."

Limbaugh may have dropped a hint about his addiction a few months ago when he joked, in a seemingly offhand way on his radio show, that he had been "popping pills" for back pain. He drew a very sympathetic response two years ago when he announced that he had suddenly gone deaf-the result of some kind autoimmune illness, he said at the time.

Suspicion has now turned to his drug habit: repeated large doses of hydrocodone, a painkiller sold under the brand name Vicodin, can cause severe hearing impairment.

The penalty for illegally buying large quantities of prescription painkillers in Florida can be five years in jail, and contrary to some published reports, prosecutors do go after users as well as pushers -- especially if they want to make an example of a celebrity.

Limbaugh's best shot at keeping his vast audience is by being open about his problem, reports Thomas. Glenn Beck, an up-and-coming conservative talk-radio host who is regarded as one of the heirs if Limbaugh falters, is himself a former drug addict and recovering alcoholic.

"The hardest thing I had to do was stand up in front of a room of people and say, 'I'm an alcoholic,' and those were people who were sympathetic to what I was saying. He had to do it in front of 18 million... I can't imagine how hard it was to get on the air and say I have a problem."

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