on the Mike
Murphy Tackles Addiction,
Denial on KDXU's "Last Call"
By Joshua Kors
George, UT -
Sure, Dan Murphy recognizes the splendors in Dixie -
the plateaus and the parks, the tight-knit webs of families and
friends, the serenity of the streets bright and early Sunday morning.
But Murphy, Southern Utah's preeminent substance abuse counselor,
also sees decay below that serene surface.
He's seeing children smoking cigarettes before middle school, 7th
grade students delving into pot. Murphy met a kid the other day
who had been busted for possession of X. Asked how many of the methamphetamines
the young man had taken, the boy told Murphy he didn't know. He
had ground up the pills and snorted them -
word on the streets of Dixie was that snorting delivered a better
Combating that high, and the addiction that follows, may seem like
a futile task for one man to take on. But every Saturday, Murphy
is back at it, underscoring the dangers of drugs on his KDXU talk
show, "Last Call." It's a job, he says, that only gets
harder with time: Drug addiction in Southern Utah has become "an
epidemic," in his words. Statistics gathered by the state's
Department of Human Services support that assessment.
1999, the most recent year for which there is data, 16,694 Utahns
were treated for substance abuse. That group includes 1,438 for
heroin, 1,529 for cocaine and crack, and 2882 for methamphetamines.
Southern Utah alone had 612 addiction cases, including 141 for meth
and 301 for alcohol. Twenty-nine of those alcoholics were under
the age of 18.
Still, Murphy tells his radio audience, the most potent narcotic
facing Southern Utah is not meth or alcohol but something far more
insidious: the willingness of the community to be blind to its addictions.
He's fond of saying the big "D" on the mountain stands
for "Denial," not "Dixie."
"This is a great place," Murphy said of St. George. "It's
clean, it has a good school system, and there aren't drive-by shootings.
But under the surface there is an epidemic. It's in the police blotter
every day -
over 300 DUI arrests through (Washington County) justice court last
year. But people here, they have a tendency to look the other way."
To break that tendency, and bring help to those in need, Murphy
is pushing for a detox center located right here, in St. George.
"A detox would get help for people who need medical oversight
by a staff knowledgeable about addiction," Murphy said. But
the plan faces opposition. "A detox center would in fact admit
that we have a problem."
Today, when Murphy gets calls from local addicts needing help, he
is forced to send them to Las Vegas or Salt Lake, the only cities
in the area with full-time, in-patient facilities. Murphy suspects
those cities might maintain that distinction for some time, even
in the face of his efforts and those of Steve Chilow.
"We need a detox center big time," said Chilow, a social
worker at Desert Hills Therapeutic who appeared on Murphy's show
earlier in the year. "I would venture to say that one out of
10 (patients) that comes in here needs medical detox. And we don't
have anything for them."
Chilow calls Murphy's efforts on behalf of addicts and their families
"indispensable." "Nobody wants to talk about addiction,
like it's leprosy," Chilow said. "But Dan, he tells it
like it is."
No one knows how it is more intimately than Murphy. His anti-drug
crusade was forged by a lifetime of horrors, beginning at age 7,
when the family next-door was crushed to death by a drunk driver.
Murphy remembers how one boy survived the head-on collision, for
a short time, before dying.
Murphy's sister Patricia was taken, too, at the age of 18, when
a drunk driver clipped her car as it was making a standard left
"Her head hit a post. She had a skull fracture," he said.
"They took her to the hospital and everyone was waiting for
her to regain consciousness. About three days later they discovered
her brain stem was broken. She lasted about 10 days, then died."
"It was pretty hard," Murphy recalled.
Three of Murphy's siblings descended into alcoholism. His brother
in Las Vegas is now seven years sober; his sister has been sober
over 20 years. Despite treatment at a handful of facilities, one
of Murphy's older brothers continues to drink.
Murphy himself? He carries with him the AA coin of recovery, a token
that marks his 15th year of sobriety.
Murphy has spent those years doing more than avoid booze. True to
the tenets of AA, he began giving back to the community, making
good use of the mike at Desert Hills Therapeutic and other outpatient
facilities. Soon Murphy realized he could be of greater help if
he could reach a greater audience. That's when he approached Rick
Harris, a sales associate who worked at Simmons Media.
Harris embraced the idea of "Last Call." He passed the
project to the KDXU management, who approved it in June 1998.
"He told me the mission of his life was to help people with
drug and alcohol abuse," Harris said. "Now I hear people
talking about the show all the time. I think he does a lot of people
a lot of good. He's presenting solutions. People that have problems
(with addiction) can listen and learn different avenues to try to
Self-help radio struck a chord in St. George. In three years on
the air, "Last Call" has developed a loyal core of listeners.
Many, like Eric Werny, listen every week.
"Dan's show is a clarion call in this community," Werny
said. "I don't know what happens in the classes he runs, but
on the show, I hear people doing a personal wake-up call."
Werny, in fact, has been so impressed with the show, he has agreed
to stream it free on his internet website, www.utahsdixieonline.com.
The result: Today Murphy enjoys audiences both local and global.
He only hopes they are open enough to hear his message and call.
"There are times I'll get up (in the studio), and the phones
don't ring. And it's not because they're not listening -
it's because they're afraid to pick up the phone out of fear of
recognition," Murphy said. "Drug addiction is a secret
thing. Go out and share (your addiction) with other people, and
it's almost suicidal in this community. You can destroy your image
and your reputation."
"Nonetheless," said Murphy, "it is my fond hope to
carry a message to people who are suffering from addiction."
The message: There is help, if you seek it.
Update: In 2006 "Last
Call" moved to 1450 KZNU-AM, St. George's Fox News Radio station. Murphy's show airs every Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. For information or to contact Murphy,
call (435) 673-1450 or visit www.mylastcall.com.