Archive: Pain and Celebrity: The Case of Rush Limbaugh

Limbaugh Medical Records May Soon Be Going To Prosecutors

After a great deal of legal wrangling, Rush Limbaugh’s medical records may soon be going to the prosecutors in the ongoing drug investigation of his drug use. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on July 6, 2005 (“Limbaugh’s Records Might Soon Go To Prosecutors”) that:

“A Palm Beach County judge appears close to releasing at least some of Rush Limbaugh’s medical records to prosecutors, saying Tuesday he could be done reviewing them by the end of the week. The documents are expected to revive a criminal investigation into the conservative talk show host’s prescription drug use. In a two-paragraph ruling, Circuit Judge Thomas Barkdull also denied Limbaugh’s request to restrict who on the prosecution team may view the records. Suggesting a record handover was imminent, Barkdull at the end of Tuesday’s hearing requested prosecutors provide him with three evidence bags for the documents.”

The move comes as no surprise to Limbaugh’s defense team. According to the Sun-Sentinel:
“‘We assumed from the first hearing that some of the records would go to the state,’ Limbaugh’s attorney, Roy Black, said outside the courtroom. ‘The only question is which records.’ Prosecutors had sought access to all of Limbaugh’s medical records as they investigated whether Limbaugh engaged in ‘doctor-shopping,’ illegally obtaining overlapping prescriptions from different doctors.

“Limbaugh, 54, of Palm Beach has not been charged with a crime. Prosecutors cited prescriptions Limbaugh received in March 2003 and September 2003 to get search warrants for his medical records from four doctors in Florida and California. According to the warrants, Limbaugh picked up 1,733 hydrocodone pills, 90 OxyContin pills, 50 Xanax tablets and 40 pills of time-release morphine during that time. Limbaugh, citing privacy rights, fought against granting prosecutors access to the sealed records. He lost appeals that reached the Florida Supreme Court.”

Limbaugh’s attorneys are also fighting to restrict access to the records to a very limited few on the prosecution. The Sun-Sentinel noted that:
“Barkdull last month ruled that he would privately review the records to determine which ‘fall within the scope’ of the search warrants. Those will be given to prosecutors. Any others will be turned over to Black. Prosecutors were ordered not to disclose the information to anyone outside the investigation. Black then sought to restrict who on the prosecution team should have access to any records released to the State Attorney’s Office, blaming prosecutors and law enforcement for media leaks. ‘This case has become a soap opera,’ Black said. ‘They have taken a course of conduct to destroy him personally.’ Black argued in
court documents that only three people for the prosecution, the trial prosecutor and two police officers who executed the
warrants, should have access. Assistant State Attorney James Martz countered that it was incomprehensible for a suspect
to dictate how prosecutors pursue a case.”

It Can Happen To Anyone: Rush Limbaugh Admits To Addiction, Illegal Use Of Painkillers

Noted talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has confessed to illegally purchasing and using opioid painkillers. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported on Oct. 11, 2003 (“Limbaugh Says He’s Addicted To Painkillers, Will Check Into Rehab”) that:
“Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh announced during
his radio program Friday that he is addicted to painkillers
and is checking into a rehab center to ‘break the hold this
highly addictive medication has on me. You know I have always
tried to be honest with you and open about my life,’
Limbaugh, who lives in Palm Beach County, said during
a stunning admission aired nationwide. ‘So I need to tell
you today that part of what you have heard and read is
correct. I am addicted to prescription pain medication.””

The reports of Limbaugh’s illegal drug use first appeared in the National Enquirer. According to the Herald-Tribune:
“The tabloid
had interviewed Wilma Cline, who said she became
Limbaugh’s drug connection after working as his maid.
She said Limbaugh had abused OxyContin and other painkillers.
Law enforcement sources who spoke on condition of anonymity
confirmed to The Associated Press that Limbaugh was being
investigated by the Palm Beach County state attorney’s

According to the report,
“Limbaugh said he started taking painkillers
‘some years ago’ after a doctor prescribed them
following a spinal surgery. His back pain stemming from
the surgery persisted, so Limbaugh said he started taking pills
and became hooked.”
The Daytona Beach News-Journal noted in an Oct. 14, 2003 piece (“Let’s Learn The Right Lesson From Rush Limbaugh’s
“In 1995, perhaps in response to criticism that blacks
are far more likely than whites to go to jail for the same
type of drug offense, Rush Limbaugh issued one of the
moralistic edicts for which he is famous: ‘Too many
whites are getting away with drug use. The answer is to …
find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them, and
send them up the river.””

Drug policy reformers, including CSDP, disagree with that sentiment, and contend that
treating drug use as a crime is backward, counterproductive, and
wrong. As the News-Journal opined:

“But we have had enough of warehousing drug abusers
in jail cells. We continue to build more and more jails, but
the real abuse is the way we underfund drug rehabilitation
facilities and programs. People like Limbaugh should be
sentenced to rehabiliation, not jail.
No, it’s not a magic bullet. Limbaugh reportedly
has been through some form of rehab twice. But in 2001 the
Centers for Disease Control reported that more than one-quarter
of inmates in American jails were there because of drug
offenses, or more than 1.5 million people. In many cases,
these people are like Limbaugh — not criminals, but drug users
more likely to harm themselves than others. Many had jobs
and functioned well in daily life. They were nonviolent.
Although unlike Limbaugh, many of these people probably
were recreational users, not addicts, who were unlucky enough
to be caught. It’s too soon to say if Limbaugh has been
humbled enough to change his mind since 1995; it will be
sad if he hasn’t. We can’t afford anymore of the
hypocrisy that lets celebrities like Limbaugh go to voluntary
rehab — and ordinary people go to jail.

To search the MAPINC archive for more stories about Rush, click here. is a project of the Real Reporting Foundation. Post last updated February 11, 2024 by Doug McVay, Editor.