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The Nightmare of Addiction

Aired March 23, 2007 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did meth and now this is my life.


MARIA SHRIVER, HOST: Tonight, addiction -- from crystal meth in the heartland to designer drugs in the city to new aimless stars entering rehab every week, it is everywhere and it can kill, destroy families, drive addicts and their loved ones to the outer limits of desperation.

Tonight, renowned attorney Robert Shapiro talks about every parent's worst nightmare -- his son's death at the age of 24 of a drug overdose.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Pat O'Brien talk openly and emotionally about their struggles with addiction and their desire to help others.

Plus, a mom driven to have her own daughter arrested.

And Susan Ford, the daughter of President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford, whose mom made rehab a household word.

An emotional hour that could save your life or that of someone you know, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening, everyone.

Larry is off tonight.

I'm Maria Shriver.

Substance addiction is an American epidemic and it is sweeping the country, costing the American economy $366 billion per year in lost productivity, health care expenditures and crime. There is crystal meth in middle America, designer drugs in the cities, binge drinking on college campuses and a 150 percent increase in prescription drug abuse in the last five years alone.

Tonight, the story of addiction.

Why does it have such a grip on people of all ages and all economic groups? What's new when it comes to medical treatment and what can you do if a family member is struggling?

In our New York studio tonight, Pat O'Brien, host of the syndicated television show, "The Insider," and two years clean.

With me here in Los Angeles, Jamie Lee Curtis, a board member of CASA, the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. She is also a recovering addict.

Also with us here, well known defense attorney Robert Shapiro. Mr. Shapiro's son, Brent, died of a drug and alcohol overdose in 2005.

And thank you all for joining us.


SHRIVER: Let me begin with you, Jamie.

You said that eight years ago, you became clean and it was the single greatest thing you ever did in your life.

Why is that?

JAMIE LEE CURTIS, ACTRESS RECOVERING FROM ADDICTIONS TO ALCOHOL, PAINKILLING DRUGS: And it continues to be. You know, when you become clean, it's just the beginning. Staying clean is the rest of your life. And for me, it was the single greatest achievement, accomplishment, of my life. I've broken my family history of drug addiction and alcoholism. I, too, have a brother, 21 years old, my brother, who died of a drug -- a heroin overdose.

For me, it was about denial. I was living in a state of denial. I, along with millions -- every one of these dots on the back of this wall represents a place where there is addiction, and yet I was living in denial.

SHRIVER: Did you think you had a disease?

CURTIS: I knew I had a problem with drugs and alcohol for my entire life. It turns out that that for me, it was prescription drug painkillers that were given to me for a medical procedure. But then I became arrested to them very quickly.

And I ended up being a very hidden, quiet drug addiction. No one ever knew. You know, most people, you have to hit a bottom. And for many people it's that they kill another human being with a car, they lose everything in their family, in their work, they lose their kids.

For me, I lost nothing except my self-esteem.

SHRIVER: But what made you get clean? What made you -- what was the turning point?

CURTIS: Well, you know what that turning point was a -- was really a moment between me and god. I never went to treatment. I walked into the door of a 12-step program and I have not walked out since. And...

SHRIVER: And you practice it every day? CURTIS: I practice it every day.

SHRIVER: Because it's important (ph)...

CURTIS: But it's important for everybody to know, there's hope here. You see, anybody watching this program who is struggling with addiction never has to take another drink as long as they ever live.

SHRIVER: Let me ask you, Bob, your son, which we talked about, ended in a tragedy, his life, he went in and out of rehab, really, throughout his life. And so many people do relapse once they even make the commitment.

Is there one thing that you look back and say I wish we had done it this way?

SHAPIRO: I don't think so, Maria. You know, in Brent's situation, he had been in two or three different rehabs, had been in sober living. Finally we sent him to Virginia. And he lived in a sober living facility for about eight months. He came back, went to USC, he was on the dean's list for three semesters in a row, was sober for 18 months, went to the meetings, did what he was supposed to do.

But this is a disease. This is an epidemic disease and it never leaves you. And one of the things we're doing at the Brent Shapiro Foundation is bringing awareness to the fact that this is not unlike any other disease, but people view it as shameful.

CURTIS: I believe that this is airing the day after your show about...

SHRIVER: Elizabeth Edwards.

CURTIS: Elizabeth.

Here's an example of this beautiful woman, mother of two, mother of three, fighting for her life with breast cancer. And you see the outpouring of love and support from all over the world. Today, political figures -- Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are all making their sometimes of how much support.

Now, nobody said that about Britney Spears' children. Nobody. All they did was ridicule her for her bad decision. She is suffering from a disease. It is -- it is impacting her family, with all due respect, as much as Elizabeth's is affecting her family, her children.

And yet we have not, as a society, accepted it as an illness. And unless we do, what's going to happen is a catastrophe is going to have to befall our country.

SHRIVER: Let me ask Pat O'Brien in New York, Jamie brings up Britney Spears. And almost every day we're hearing of another celebrity who's checking into rehab. And you feel very strongly that this is not just a Hollywood problem.


No, it's a barrel not a Hollywood problem. It's not a celebrity problem. By the way, on the Britney thing, I did go on the air and say what Jamie Lee is talking about, that it is a problem, and I was glad she got help.

You know, we're the lucky ones, Jamie Lee and I and all the people that have made it through rehab. We're lucky because, A, we didn't kill somebody, we didn't kill ourselves. We obviously hurt people along the way, but I think we've been able to heal our families.

But this is certainly not about being a celebrity. Celebrities get in the news. They're on my show. They're on CNN. They're on all the shows.

But they're not the only people who -- who mess up, who get drunk. You know, Michael J. Fox is not the only person who got Parkinson's.

SHRIVER: But, Pat...

O'BRIEN: Muhammad Ali -- go ahead.

SHRIVER: But almost every day we're hearing somebody checking into rehab for anger management, for a racial slur, for, you know, drugs or alcohol. And young people -- we're both the parents of young kids -- they sit there and they look at rehab and they almost laugh about it now. And yet it's a very serious issue.

How do we change the conversation about it?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I think -- I think that's changing, too. I mean I think -- and you're absolutely right, people think, you know, we're jerks.

This is not a moral problem. It's a brain disease. I mean there's, you know, I wanted to stop drinking, I couldn't. I finally did and I think most alcoholics and drug addicts, you know, would like to quit at some point, but there's something in your brain. You don't have that -- your stop and go button is disconnected. And your stop says stop but your brain is configured to say go, go, go, go.

And I think what we have to do -- and Bob and I have talked about this -- there's got to be education that it is not a moral dilemma, it is a -- it is a disease, and a tough one.

CURTIS: But it's also that the media's responsibility. I mean the media has to take some responsibility. If they aren't going to accept that it is a disease, then nobody watching is going to accept it.

We're going to continue to talk about that.

Coming up next, Susan Ford, the daughter of Betty Ford and, of course, President Gerald Ford. She will talk about the institution that bears her mother's name.

But first, as we go to break, a heartfelt message from Bob Shapiro's wife, Linell, on behalf of the foundation that they have established in their son's name.


LINELL SHAPIRO: He had half of Ecstasy and had had about two drinks. And by the time he got to Cedar's Sinai Hospital, he was already in a coma. And then they told me I had to leave because they had to shut down the machines and take him away.

My name is Linell Shapiro.

This is my story.

What's your story?




LARRY KING, HOST: Did you ever say to yourself, I'm an alcoholic?

BETTY FORD, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I finally did, yes. I finally did.

KING: What led to doing that?

FORD: The intervention with my family. When my family intervened and said mom, you've got -- we've got to tell you that you're just, you know, it's a dangerous thing you're dealing with.


SHRIVER: The year was 1978 when Betty Ford courageously admitted to the country that she had a prescription drug problem. She went on to establish the Betty Ford Center.

Her daughter, Susan Ford Bales, is now chairman of the board of directors at the Betty Ford Center and she joins us this evening from Vail, Colorado to talk about the incredible work that is being done there.

Susan, thanks so much for joining us.


SHRIVER: Tell me, what is the difference in the person that comes to the Betty Ford Center today compared to the person that came there when you opened the doors? FORD BALES: Well, first of all, we're getting ready to celebrate our 25th anniversary, so we've been around for a while. And the patient has changed some. First of all, we are one of the few centers that 50 percent of our patients are women only. We don't give up beds because we have more men on the waiting list. We always have half and half men versus women.

Some of the other things that we've done differently in the last 25 years is we now have a children's program, a program that treats children whose parents or significant others, parent or whatever, is in treatment and there's alcohol or drug addiction in the family. And that's a very important program because those kids feel so guilty.

SHRIVER: You talk a lot about...

FORD BALES: And they're convinced...

SHRIVER: ... about the disease being a family disease.

Can you treat the addict without treating the family, Susan?

FORD BALES: Well, no. I think you need to treat the people that are around the patient. You know, if somebody doesn't have a family, I mean you can use the term family very loosely, put it that way.

But, you know, there's nobody in this country that isn't touched by addiction in some sort of way, from a boss to a co-worker to a family member to whatever. I mean you're touched by it wherever you go in this country.

And you do have to treat the family. I did go to treatment when mother went to treatment. I was the perfect, you know, enabler and I let her get away with a lot of things that I shouldn't have. And I needed to learn about the disease of addiction. I needed to learn that it affects everybody in the family.

SHRIVER: Do you talk to your own children about it being a disease of the family, that it runs in the family? And when -- I think when your mother first came out, nobody talked about addiction in terms of it being a disease.

FORD BALES: No. And I have talked to my own children about it. And, you know, luckily mine are now grown, not that that's going to change anything, but they know that there is a genetic component to this disease and honestly and everybody's -- you know, I have to agree with Jamie. The best thing that ever happened to my mother was the fact that we did an intervention and she went for treatment. It is the best thing that ever happened to our family.

Our family is open and honest and truthful and we have all healed and we continue to heal.

SHRIVER: Do you find women deal with addiction differently?

FORD BALES: Well, there are several different components. One of the reasons that we went to 50-50 members as women was because we discovered that the women who were only in women's halls -- because we did have some coed halls in the very beginning -- were doing better than the women that were in the coed halls.

SHRIVER: Of treatment (ph).

CURTIS: CASA did a -- a study called "Women Under The Influence," their 2006 report. And the stat that was amazing was that women become addicted faster using equal or less alcohol or drugs and they suffer harsher consequences sooner, that women, by our biological nature, we become addicted faster, for whatever that -- for whatever that is.

And yet, of course, that isn't ever brought into the public specter. People don't understand that.

SHRIVER: Susan, what advice would you have for someone who was your age maybe now, a 17- or 18-year-old girl whose mother is abusing, whether it be alcohol or prescription drugs or meth or whatever?

What advice would you give that young girl today?

FORD BALES: I would say never give up. Keep trying. I confronted my mother one-on-one before we did the professional intervention and it was a miserable experience, and obviously it didn't work, which is why we did a professional intervention.

But I never gave up. And I was determined that I wanted the mother back that I knew was -- was there. And so there is hope. There is treatment. There is free treatment. There is inexpensive treatment. There are treatment centers. There is hope and there is help out there.

And I encourage anybody to get it and to look into it.

SHRIVER: And, finally, Susan, you also mentioned, before, actually, we went on the air, that the Betty Ford Center, you know, treats the addict, treats the family, but it also treats the soul.

Can you explain to me what you mean by treating the soul?

FORD BALES: Well, when I say treat the soul, we have -- very much of the program is a spiritual program. You know, we have spiritual counselors who meet with our patients. And that's a very important component, we feel, at the Betty Ford Center.

And not all treatment centers do treat it that way. And we do feel it's very, you know, a strong and impersonal (ph) thing and it's not, you know, the god that we all know of, it's the higher power. And that's really the important part.

And so we try and treat the soul as well as the body and the brain.

SHRIVER: When we come back after this break, we will look into what causes someone to become an alcoholic and, more importantly, when are we at the risk of developing a drinking problem? As we go to break, you'll listen to Miss. USA, Tara Conner, talking to Larry about her issues with alcohol.

We'll be right back.


KING: Why? Why did you take drugs?

TARA CONNER, MISS. USA: It's -- with alcoholism and addiction, you don't know why. It's something that is -- it's a void that you feel like you have to fill. There's an emptiness that -- that we alcoholics and addicts have. And eventually you never feel better. Nothing ever feels good. You're never able to hit that first high and it starts to destroy your life.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what we call a level one trauma. This is someone who's badly injured, who the paramedics have pretty much decided is at risk of losing life or limb. So...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The resources that we commit to trauma care are enormous. In some ways, it's one of the most expensive diseases that we face in modern society. And about half of it's related to -- to alcohol use.


SHRIVER: That's from HBO's ongoing documentary series, "Addiction," dealing with the tragic results of one alcohol-related traffic accident.

And joining us now from Minneapolis to talk about alcohol addictions, especially among the young, Dr. Mark Willenbring.

He's director of the treatment and recovery research division of the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. And he, of course, is featured in the HBO documentary.

And thank you so much, doctor, for joining us this evening.


SHRIVER: We were just talking here amongst ourselves that we have been talking about addiction and alcoholism now rather openly for the last 10, 20 years. And it seems to be getting worse, not better.

What gives you hope? What's new on the horizon? WILLENBRING: Well, I wouldn't necessarily agree it's getting worse. What is getting worse is binge drinking or heavy drinking episodically...

CURTIS: Right.

WILLENBRING: ... in young people. That's gotten somewhat worse.

But if you look at alcohol addiction, the rate has stayed basically about the same for the last 10 years.

SHRIVER: But we know a lot more about alcoholism today. You have a lot of new drugs that you say help people get off of alcohol and stay off of alcohol.

WILLENBRING: I'd have to agree with everyone else on the panel that the really is a lot of hope. And, in fact, treatment outcomes right now are pretty good. They're nowhere near good enough, but they're much better than most people probably think, because we're much more aware of these really serious cases where they don't -- somebody doesn't respond to treatment and they, tragically, die or have other serious consequences for themselves and for others.

Alcohol is the third leading cause of death, preventable death, in the country. The...

SHRIVER: You say, doctor, that you wouldn't argue that it's getting worse. But in the CASA study that Jamie was talking about just a few minutes ago, half of college students are binge drinking. Other studies show that kids can't graduate from high school in this country today without being offered illegal drugs and without drinking and probably getting involved in alcohol at a very early age.

A lot of parents, incredibly concerned.

WILLENBRING: Well, it's a very common -- it's a very common problem. There's no question about that.

I think that the good news is, again, that the treatments we have right now are pretty effective. And I think they're going to get significantly more effective and we're going to have ways of getting the effective treatments to people in a way that more people can access.

A lot of people don't have access to treatment right now.

SHRIVER: What are the effective treatments?

And certainly there are many people who think that if you have a substance abuse problem, be it alcohol, drugs, crystal meth or whatever, that the last thing you should do is be getting another drug to help you stay off of that substance.

WILLENBRING: The good news, again, I think, is that people have a lot of choices. A lot of people get well... SHRIVER: But what about that argument? Why -- why isn't the argument of just going to a 12-step program and actually never drinking or taking a drug again, why is that not better than being given another drug to help you stay off the drug?

WILLENBRING: I'm not saying it's not better. I think that's ideal and it works for many people. But it doesn't work for everyone.

The medications we're currently using to treat alcohol dependence, for example, are not addictive. They don't make you high. They're not a substitute for alcohol.

What they do is they reduce the risk of relapse by 20 to 40 percent during that first crucial three months after becoming sober. So that means that there are 20 to 40 percent more people who are not relapsing in that -- in that three month period. And what that does is it allows them to participate in a -- to participate in a recovery program.

It works very much in the same way that anti-depressants do. And we used to have the same argument about depression. And...

SHRIVER: Susan Ford, do you -- does the Betty Ford Center agree with that or do they feel that the best way to stay off drugs is to just abstain from any kind of substance whatsoever?

FORD BALES: Well, basically what we do, Maria, is we're waiting to see how well some of these drugs that he's talking about test out. We do not use them at the Betty Ford Center. We will look at them once there are some statistics and that sort of information behind them.

SHRIVER: But not right now?

FORD BALES: Long-term, I should say.

SHAPIRO: You know, my experience in traveling the country is just the opposite of the doctor's. I think this is an epidemic. It's an epidemic among young people. The cost to society and the cost to families are enormous. When you have at least 10 percent of teenagers trying drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin when their primary source, 80 to 90 percent of them get them from their families or their friends, it is something that we have to really talk about, face head-on and realize this country and this country's children and adults are in big trouble because of this epidemic.

SHRIVER: How much...

CURTIS: Seventy percent of child abuse cases was exacerbated by alcohol. Eighty percent of the people in prison are there because of alcohol-related -- I mean 80 percent of people in prison are there because of an alcohol or drug-related offense.

SHRIVER: The statistics and the numbers are staggering.

CURTIS: Well, but they're -- but that's the way that people change their minds, because that's the way you lift the veil of this denial that we live in.

Eighty percent of people in prison?

That's an extraordinary amount.


Well, when we come up next, we'll continue talking about that. And we'll also talk about intervention. We'll meet the interventionist and one of the addicts that she helped get off the street and off heroin.

As we go to break, a dramatic clip from the A&E show called "Intervention."

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm addict to cocaine and heroin. I can't get enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heroin is more important than food, sex, anything, people's feelings, my family, my own well-being.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It controls me. It controls my life.



SHRIVER: Welcome back to a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Our subject tonight -- addiction.

Our guests, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, well known attorney Robert Shapiro, Pat O'Brien, who is the host of "The Insider," Susan Ford Bales, daughter of Gerald and Betty Ford and addiction psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Willenbring.

And you might have seen our next two guests on a cable television show called "Intervention." Take a look at the clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are some people here that love you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I hope that you take everything that's said with love and understanding that we're all here because we care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I've been 13 times. I'm not going to stop.


SHRIVER: The interventionist in that clip was Candy Finnegan and she is joining us here. And the subject of that intervention is a young man named Trent. And they're' both here with us in the studio.

Now, I want to ask you right away, Trent, since you were the subject of the intervention, did you feel like this was the worst thing that had ever happened to you or did you think thank God?

"TRENT," RECOVERING HEROIN ADDICT: I was very relieved when it happened. I think it came at the right time for me. I don't know if I had many choices left. I think I had come to the end of the road. And I think it was a God thing for me.

SHRIVER: How bad was your situation?

"TRENT": I was living on the streets of Denver, eating out of trash cans, sleeping under the bridge, about as low as you can go. And my physical health had deteriorated to the point, you know, I didn't know if I was going to live or die from day-to-day basically.

SHRIVER: And why had you not been able to go and join a 12-step program? Why had you not been able to help yourself? Why did we have to come to an intervention?

"TRENT": I think the point where I was at my mission probably was to die. SHRIVER: And a lot of people around you had given up on you and just thought, you know, he's beyond hope?

"TRENT": Oh, yes. Everybody had given up on me. And the point where I was at on the streets, I mean, had actually worked out well for me being out there, you know. I didn't have to lie anymore. I was a homeless person. I didn't have to pretend to be anything anymore. I could just go on my path.

SHRIVER: Candy, why do you think being an interventionist work? Why does an intervention work? And let's say it doesn't it always work.

CANDY FINNIGAN, INTERVENTIONIST: Well, I think, really, it's kind of like you've accepted a stranger in the room. You've accepted somebody to come in that has a new voice. I think a lot of it, at least in "Trent's" situation there wasn't anybody else that was available to tell him anything. He was at odds with everybody in his family. And other than his girlfriend, he was really alone.

So when this intervention was offered to his family, it was a whole new way of approaching "Trent". Nobody was whispering. There weren't any hostages. What we offered that maybe a lot of people don't have the advantage of, which, you're so right, Jamie, was that this was a 90-day wonderful program that was offered to "Trent" to get away, to get out of his area, and to be in the 12-step, and to give him a chance to have a new life. There wasn't any place for him to go.

SHRIVER: Because of economic situations. So many people can't afford going away for 90 days.

FINNIGAN: He had been to 14 rehabs.

SHRIVER: Fourteen rehabs?

How many had your son been to, Bob?

ROBERT SHAPIRO, ATTORNEY: He had been to three. And the third one had helped him along. His was not an overdose. He took -- had a couple of drinks, which is a trigger for anybody who has chemical dependence disease and then for reasons we don't know take a half of Ecstasy. And the result of the two caused him to get violently ill. And nobody paid attention to it. Take him home and he'll sleep it off because they didn't want us to find out that he had relapsed.

So what happens is they take him home. He starts to aspirate. He turns blue. And by the time the paramedics get him to the hospital, it's too late.

SHRIVER: But "Trent's" story is very common.

SHAPIRO: It is...

SHRIVER: People going in and out, feeling desperate, nobody being able to reach them, nobody understanding you really. Isn't that what you felt like, nobody would understand your situation?

"TRENT": I don't know if it was really I was worried about people not understanding. I didn't care at that time. My goal was to die, basically. And there was some hopelessness completely. You know, I didn't think there was going to be any other way.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS, ACTRESS: I said to Robert right when we came back in this segment that the amount of drugs available on the Internet now without a prescription is pervasive. And honestly, when I was addicted to Vicodin, I would steal them. I would steal them from whoever's house I would go to. And if you had an injury, I might come over and bring you a nice case and then go, yes, I've got to use the restroom and steal your Vicodin because I was an addict.

SHRIVER: You did?

CURTIS: I was an addict. I was an addict. I'm an addict. I am an addict. I'm a junkie. You know I try to tell people, you know, addict sounds a little soft. I'm a junkie. I like dope. And I didn't know I did. As I said, it was an accidental addiction.

But my point is, if the drugs that I used to like were available on the Internet and I didn't have to steal them and I didn't have to have a doctor's prescription, I would be dead today. There is no question in my mind. If I had had access to the kind of drugs that you can have access to today over the Internet, I would be dead today. SHRIVER: One hundred and fifty percent increase in the abuse of prescription drugs in the last five years alone. Just ahead, the desperate mom who did what it took to get her addicted daughter away from drugs. She had her thrown into jail. Here is a clip as we go to break.


DONNA FERGUSON, MOTHER OF AN ADDICT: What's it going to take for you to reach your bottom?

AUBREY FERGUSON, TEEN ADDICT: I don't really know what bottom is. I guess it's different for everybody. I mean can I say I'm never going to take another drug or another drink for the rest of my life, no, I cannot say that. Can I say I'm not going to take a drug or drink today? Yes, I can. You know, it works like that.




D. FERGUSON: She was in the gifted program at school, captain of the cheerleading squad. She had a lot of friends. She had a beautiful voice. She sang at weddings, played the piano beautifully. She got that talent from her father. But she never liked herself.

When you talk to people that do not have addicts, they just don't understand. You always here well, where were the parents? Well, where were you when this was happening? I was right here.


SHRIVER: That desperate mom on the HBO documentary series "Addiction" is Donna Ferguson. And she's been kind enough to join us now from Pittsburgh to talk about her incredible story and the story of her addicted daughter, Aubrey.

Thank you so much for joining us this evening, Donna.

D. FERGUSON: You're welcome, Maria.

SHRIVER: Now it sounds very extreme to go to the lengths to have your daughter arrested to try to get her off drugs. But you were telling me earlier that you think that's actually the norm?

D. FERGUSON: Well, actually, I'm in a strong support group. And when you do everything you possibly can, that's kind of like a last measure. And I've known very many people that have gone to that extreme.

SHRIVER: Why did you feel like you had to go to that extreme? Your daughter stole from you, I know. You had tried to speak with her. You had put her in and out of rehab. Nothing seemed to work.

D. FERGUSON: Right. She was in and out of 14 rehabs.

SHRIVER: Fourteen?

D. FERGUSON: Fourteen. And she had stolen my diamond ring, which my husband passed away when she was 2, and that was precious to her. So I knew when she took that -- she even left me a note telling me where she pawned it, how much she got for it, and begged me to go and buy it back. So I knew at that point she was desperate. She was desperate. And it was a last measure for her to get the money to get the drugs.

SHRIVER: Did you feel that you could not afford to put her into a long-term rehab? Was it ever a financial issue for you?

D. FERGUSON: Oh, it's always been a financial issue. And I have struggled with insurance companies. And I've never been able to get her in a long-term. She was -- the most she ever got was a month.

SHRIVER: Susan and Doctor Willenbring, can you address this? They say something like 22 million Americans have substance abuse problems and only 9 percent of people can get treatment and that for most Americans, like Donna was just talking; treatment is out of their financial capability.

SUSAN FORD BALES, DAUGHTER OF GERALD & BETTY FORD: Maria, it's a big problem. We have a lot of people that come into the Betty Ford Center on insurance. And 10 days into their treatment, the insurance pulls the plug on them and we go to the patient and we say you know what do you want to do? The insurance has pulled the plug on you. We have never sent a patient home before the 30 days is up because the insurance pulled the plug on them. Some of those patients go on financial assistance. We do $3 million a year in financial assistance to our patients.

SHRIVER: Jamie, we were talking before. You were saying you think this is a political issue, kind of going off of what Susan was saying, that political leaders need to talk about this being an epidemic, the cost to society, and put it on the front burner just the same way we talk about health care, the war in Iraq, terrorism. That addiction needs to be treated as such.

CURTIS: Could you imagine if someone would just address it in that way? It would just open up the ability for federal funds to be put in treatment programs. But you know I appreciate that the cost of treatment is so great. I need to remind people, it's very important for people watching that there are treatment programs that are free, that you don't need any money. Twelve-step programs around the country, around the world. Every one of these dots, there's a 12- step program. You walk in the door. There is no cost, none, zero.

SHRIVER: But, Doctor, why can't we -- go ahead.

DR. MARK WILLENBRING, ADDICTION PSYCHIATRIST: Well, there are a lot of ways that people get well. And probably more people get well in 12-step programs than in professional treatment programs. I think of it as kind of a step wise thing, that a lot of people start in a 12- step program or in some other way of trying to get sober, and then will have to go to treatment when that fails.

You know the other thing is that we know now from research is that there are several different kinds of counseling approaches that are equally effective. And I think it's very important people have some sense of a choice, that there are different ways to get sober.

SHRIVER: There's cognitive therapy. There's obviously a lot of spiritual counseling.

WILLENBRING: There's motivational therapy, right. And I do think -- I do want to disagree a little bit with Susan in this about I think medications need to be on the table. And I would disagree with her characterization. There are dozens of studies now, randomized control trials of very high quality that demonstrate effectiveness of these medications. So I think the data are very, very clear.

CURTIS: But addiction is also a big business now. I mean, addiction itself a humungous business.

WILLENBRING: It always has been. And you know...

CURTIS: But wait a minute hasn't -- I'm telling you it is a huge problem. But there are ways for people to do it without necessarily putting money into it. I just want...

SHRIVER: OK, when we come back -- you have to hold that thought. We have to hold that thought. We have to hold that thought because when we come back, the epidemic that is sweeping Middle America, it is called crystal meth. And we will talk about that and also the big money that's involved in getting clean and staying clean. Don't go away.


SHRIVER: We were just talking about the billions of dollars involved in the addiction business, and the cost of getting clean.

And Susan, I wanted to give you a chance to respond to Dr. Willenbring who said that he was disagreeing with you, that there were studies that he felt were out there that were effective and accurate enough in terms of what drugs to give people to get off of alcohol, for example.

BALES: Well, the thing is there are medications that we have used. We've been involved in some of the trials that have gone on in some of them. But we look at them very carefully. We are very conservative about what medications we do allow and use. And it has to be very much a long-term study. That's just our policy.

WILLENBRING: Sure. And I'm not suggesting that you do anything else. What I am suggesting though is that people need to have choices because not everybody wants to go to a 12-step program even though they're very effective for the people that do. But not everybody is willing to go. And if they'll take a medication and get some brief behavioral support from a doctor and they can get well that way, then I think we have to support that.

We've heard from everybody about what this is costing us. And it's absolutely true. I don't think we can afford to take any treatment option that has evidence behind it off the table.

SHRIVER: Well, the key there is that has evidence behind it.


SHRIVER: Susan, I know we're going to lose our satellite with you. And I know you haven't done any interviews since your dad passed away. And since we have talked a lot about your mother's courage tonight on this program, your family's courage, and how eloquently your dad spoke about your mom, how is your mom doing?

BALES: She's doing very, very well. We're up here in Vail celebrating and honoring dad tomorrow night at a dinner. And so she's doing very well. And I'll see her in a couple of weeks. And she's doing great.

SHRIVER: Well, will you tell her that we asked about her and how many millions and millions of people admire her, and you, for all the work you've done in this field and really opened it up in so many ways. Thank you, Susan and Dr. Willenbring for joining us this evening.

BALES: You're welcome. Thank you.

SHRIVER: And we were talking with -- Susan was talking about women, and women who come to treatment. And Jamie was talking about how women seem to get addicted much quicker.

Meth is ravaging this country and it seems to be a particular favorite of women. Candy, you see a lot of it in your work?

FINNIGAN: Yes, I really do. Actually, I think it starts with really young women, even as young as grade school, preschool.

SHRIVER: Grade school?

FINNIGAN: Absolutely, 12 -- between sixth and seventh grade.

SHRIVER: Wait a minute; you have sixth and seventh graders on meth?

FINNIGAN: Absolutely. Absolutely because that's when they're going into junior high and they don't want to have baby fat. And it's a quick fix. And all of a sudden somebody who is older, if they have an older sister can say, look, you're not going to get addicted to this, just use it during the summer.

Oh, absolutely. And it's so incredibly cheap, cheap on the Internet. Your child is suddenly happy. And he doesn't have that kind of pubescent depression and life looks grand. And that baby fat is falling off of them and they're so popular. And all of a sudden, they go, when did you start using meth? It's very, very deceptive. And it's killing. It's killing the youth of America as well as prescription drugs are.

SHAPIRO: Not only youth. I mean, it's a tremendous problem across the country...

FINNIGAN: You're right.

SHAPIRO: ...with adults. People are struggling with this. It is highly, highly addictive and readily available. It can be made at home with medicine you buy over the counter.

SHRIVER: You're a high powered lawyer. We have a lot of well- known people on this show tonight. Why do we still have so much trouble talking about this in a serious way?

SHAPIRO: It's a great question. Because there are few people who are courageous, like Jamie and Pat and Susan who will come forward and talk about this. People today talk about AIDS. Fifteen years ago, nobody would talk about it. It was shameful. It's a shameful disease. Parents don't want to say my child has it because they're going to look at them as bad parents. Parents don't want to talk about it because they're afraid it will hurt them in their social standing, in their business, in their jobs.

What we have to do is what's happening now. This is fantastic with what HBO is doing, with what the interventionist is doing, with what you're doing, is getting the word out. And the key to me is communication.

SHRIVER: Let me just finally -- because we're going to lose Pat O'Brien there on our satellite.

Pat, when you came forward and said that you had an alcohol and drug problem, were you met with a negative reaction or did people embrace you and say I want to help you?

PAT O'BRIEN, "THE INSIDER": You know the thing about this whole thing is a support system, which I had. Great friends and family came and intervened and coworkers. I got so many thousands of e-mails from people. And here's what they said, not that you've done anything wrong, but they said I'm a mother of four and you made me realize I have a problem too. I'm a businessman. Just what Bob said, I'm afraid to come out.

And I think support is the biggest thing, because if you don't have friends or coworkers or family who are smart enough, who are brave enough, to go in there and say you have got a problem, then you're going to stay with that problem.

SHRIVER: Brave enough is the operative word there.

SHAPIRO: Honesty.

FINNIGAN: Honesty, yes.

SHRIVER: Honest.

FINNIGAN: Openness.

SHRIVER: Willingness, that's the code.

SHAPIRO: And for people to really embrace the idea, this is a disease. It kills as many people or more than almost every disease right behind heart disease, which is the leading killer in America.

SHAPIRO: And we're learning more about that every day with all the research.

When we come back, where you can go for help if you need it or someone you know might need it. But first, a dramatic public service announcement that was produced by the Montana Meth Project. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, what about me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, what about you?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, give me some.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, all right. You want meth, kid? Here's your meth and here's your meth dealer, and your meth boyfriends, and your meth baby. And don't forget your meth face.



SHRIVER: We're here wrapping up our hour tonight where we've talked about all different aspects of addiction. Final thoughts -- you've been very adamant about this being a political issue.

CURTIS: Final thought is families, that the most important thing you can do is show your children by your own behavior. So anybody who is concerned about your children, just look at your own alcohol intake. If the only way you celebrate in your family is with alcohol, don't be surprised when your 14-year-old goes out with a friend to celebrate something good with alcohol or drugs, that the way we can really -- you know we've been talking about adults mostly. And the thing we have to remember is that the most important group of people here are our children because they are going to be the next generation dealing with this issue. We'll be long gone.

And so I think it's COSA who supports something called Family Day because they found a statistic that said kids who eat dinner with your families are less likely to use drugs and alcohol.

SHRIVER: Three times a week. You don't have to eat every night, but at least three times a week. CURTIS: Right. So my message would be with all of this, there's hope. There's great hope. But acceptance of the disease -- take off the veil of denial in your own family and friends, but, mostly think about your young children and how their lives are being impacted by your choices and make good choices for your children.

SHRIVER: When you were saying, Jamie, hope, Susan Ford Bales tonight saying she never gave up. She kept at it, kept at it, kept at it -- Bob.

SHAPIRO: I think the key word and idea tonight is be aware, it's everywhere. It's not north, south, east, west. It's not rich or poor. It's not black or white. It's not smart or uneducated. This is a national epidemic. We have to deal with it. And we have to deal with it like we have other diseases. We have to attack it head on, call it a disease, the disease that it is, and communicate about it like you would anything else.

You wouldn't be ashamed to say my child is coming over and has diabetes, so please don't let him celebrate with just a little bit of chocolate cake. It's the same thing here. Chemical dependency disease is here. We have to recognize it, be aware of it, and listen to what the doctor said: try new things, look at everything that's available. Not one thing is going to work for every person. And have hope but also educate and prevent people from getting this disease.

SHRIVER: And to also understand that there are 12-step programs on street corners all over this country. They are free. They are people who sponsor others in a great kind of active compassion. I have friends who sponsor people for years and years and years. And they get ongoing difference day in and day out in people's lives.

But I think your point is right, that every kid graduating from high school in this country today, regardless of where they live, will be offered illegal drugs numerous times. Parents must talk. We must all be open and get rid of the stigma.

So I want to thank all of you so much for coming.

That's it for this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. As I said, I want to thank everybody for making this hour something we hope that you found informative and helpful.

And for more information on addiction and how to prevent it, or fight it, go to our website

And a big thanks to Larry for letting me fill in for him here, in a nice seat here.


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