LA Daily News | Sports / The Hills Treatment Center

Doctor critical of USC’s handling of Sarkisian

August 31, 2015


USC’s handling of Coach Steve Sarkisian’s situation drew criticism Thursday from a doctor who treats patients with addiction problems.

Dr. Howard Samuels, founder of the The Hills treatment center in Hollywood, said based on Sarkisian’s behavior Saturday night and public comments this week, it was unwise to have Sarkisian seek treatment and coach football at the same time.

“For him to be drunk (in public) is a huge problem,” Samuels said. “For him to say he mixed medication with alcohol, that is a bigger red light. He probably has a substance abuse problem.”

Samuels said only certain drugs mixed with alcohol cause a person to act inebriated.

“Anti-depressants don’t have that effect,” Samuels said.

Among the drugs Samuels said do cause someone to act drunk are anxiety medications like Valium or Xanax. Or a pain medication like Oxycontin.

“It raises questions about what is going on here?” Samuels said. “Those drugs (like Valium and Xanax) are for serious anxiety issues. He definitely should be in an outpatient program.”

Sarkisian said Thursday he could handle coaching and treatment at the same time.

“I’m taking it as a positive,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good to self-reflect. Sometimes it’s good to be able to open up a Bible and read, quite honestly. So I don’t take it on as a negative or, ‘What am I going to do with my time now?’ ”


The Seattle Times published two receipts from University of Washington coaches’ retreats that showed Sarkisian was reimbursed for $1,023 in alcohol for two nights in 2012-13. The receipt showed Sarkisian paid for 91 shots of Patron tequila.

Sarkisian said Thursday the bill included coaches, their wives and university staff.

“As the head coach of a football program, I don’t feel bad for paying for a receipt with people that are there with us,” Sarkisian said. “There are a lot of things that could get detailed positively out of that and/or negatively, quite honestly, I guess.

“But the reality of it is I was the head coach and I took the receipt and I don’t feel bad about eating dinner and having a good time. There weren’t people drinking and driving.

“It’s unfortunate that that is the focus of the time that was spent, because there was a lot of really quality dialogue that took place in that weekend.”

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