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Video: Kennedy cousins open up about addiction

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    >>> with an eye-opening look at addiction. nearly 18 million americans suffer from alcoholism or related problems and over 38 million, over the age of just 12 years old, have used drugs illegally in the past year. in fact, prescription drug abuse now causes more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. sadly, just one in ten with an addiction ever receive treatment. christopher kennedy knows the struggles of this all too well, has been in recovery for more than 20 years and is author of the new book "recover to live" and he joins us with his cousin, patrick kennedy . good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> i guess you have the essential credentials to talk about this. you both have struggled with addiction over the years. you, christopher, have struggled really young.

    >> it starts young for several folks. i had the desire to stop, had all the resources to stop and it was difficult for me. this book "recover to live" is for folks that it shouldn't just be for folks that have the resources to kick this. i wanted to give them the tools so they can start the process on their own.

    >> when i first did drugs and alcohol i felt at home. i loved it. first four times i did heroin, i became violently ill. what it did to the reward center of my brain was so powerful it never occurred to me not to do it again. do you think some people are hardwired to be addicts?

    >> i do. and the studies they did with rats and how profound these chemicals are on the reward center of the brain. for some folks they're really powerless not to do them.

    >> patrick, this is something you've talked about openly. you had your own struggle. and sometimes relapse is part of that struggle. how long have you been sober now and how are you doing?

    >> next month it will be two years. it took me leaving my public life to finally get into long-term sobriety. before, it was stopping and starting, stopping and starting. that's the case for most people with these illnesses. they're chronic illnesses. meaning they want to stop but they can't stay stopped. the key to this is acknowledging that you have an issue and understanding what that issue is. chris ' book really does a great job at bringing the experts to tell us what is the evidence base? one of the things chris and i have had access to is good treatment. most americans, they're trying to fly in the night in terms of trying to understand what's out there and what is good for them. chris ' book "recover to live" offers good guide posts to get in good treatment.

    >> let's get practical about it. this is the time of year that people want to make a clean break or a fresh start . what is the essential revelation in this book? what can people really take away to help them break the addiction?

    >> first of all, this is the best information available today, from people that really know this. so if you have an issue with drugs, alcohol, sex, food, gambling. also the first time, all of these behaviors and substances have been brought into one place. if you have a desire -- if you think there's harm in your life and you have a desire to change your life, look at this book. it will show you where you are and give you some really good information and ways to change behavior.

    >> such a stigma still around these illnesses. and some people, you know, still look at this and think this is a failure of willpower.

    >> they do. we're beginning to understand the brain much better. i started an organization called one line for research. the idea is it's the brain. we have to understand how behavior is a symptom of bad chemistry in the brain. we blame people for acting poorly, but what was the der derivitation of how they acted?

    >> we see these laws that are broadening the legalization for marijuana, sometimes for medical reasons and at least in one case for recreational use.

    >> the two most costliest drugs are legal, alcohol and to be alcoh tobacco.

TODAY books
updated 1/7/2013 8:40:19 AM ET 2013-01-07T13:40:19

Millions of people around the world suffer from seven major compulsions – alcohol, drug dependence, eating disorders, gambling, hoarding, smoking, and sex and porn addiction. To help sufferers overcome their habits, New York Times bestselling author Christopher Kennedy Lawford consulted with more than 100 experts to determine the best method of self-treatment in his latest book, “Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction”:

You may have picked up this book out of curiosity. Or maybe you suspect that someone you know, maybe even that someone who stares back at you in the mirror every morning, has a habit that is becoming (or has already become) a serious problem. Perhaps that habit is already showing the symptoms of full-blown dependency.

Whether your interest is in finding out more about an unhealthy habit or an addiction, whether the subject of concern is yourself or someone you care about, this book can help. It draws on the wisdom of about 100 of the world’s smartest dependency experts to provide you with the most innovative and useful guidance for diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.   But think of this as a GP (General Practitioner) book, not a specialist book. And consider their collected wisdom to be signposts along a path toward self-discovery and not just an opportunity for self-help, though it is certainly that, too.

This book provides guidance for identifying and treating the seven common habits that have the potential to become Toxic compulsions.  In alphabetical order, they are:  alcohol; drugs (both legal and illegal); eating disorders; gambling; hoarding; sex and pornography; smoking.

You’ve heard of the Seven Deadly Sins? Let’s call these the Seven Toxic Compulsions. When done to excess, each one can have toxic consequences for your mental, physical, and spiritual health, for your relationships, your finances, and your overall experience of life.  Examination of available statistics on the numbers of people with either nondependent use disorders or outright addictions (dependencies reveals that these habits are the industrialized world’s number one emerging health problem. Here are the numbers.

BenBella Books, Inc.

Alcohol abuse: 17 million in the United States can be considered alcoholics; 140 million worldwide

Drugs (illegal): 19.9 million users/abusers in the United States; 208 million users/abusers worldwide

Eating disorders: Up to 4 million in the United States have a binge-eating disorder; 1 out of every 100 adolescent girls experiences anorexia nervosa; 3 percent of all women are affected by bulimia at some point in their life.

Gambling: 2 to 5 percent of the adult population of the United States—up to 10 million have a problem; world totals are in the same percentage range.

Hoarding: An estimated 1 in 50 adults in the United States and worldwide have this disorder—about 2 million in the United States.

Sex and Pornography: up to 8 percent of the adult U.S. population, or about 12 million people, have some form of a sex addiction or compulsive sexual problem. World totals are unknown.

Smoking: An estimated 1 billion people worldwide have this habit.

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Only an estimated one in 10 persons with an alcohol or drug addiction problem ever receives treatment.  This one in 10 ratio may also apply to the other five Toxic compulsions addressed in this book, but may be even lower due to the hidden nature of these problems.   As a direct consequence of this lack of treatment, aside from the human cost of deaths and illnesses associated with the undiagnosed and untreated conditions, every nation’s health care system is burdened with excessive and rapidly growing costs.  The impact of drug and alcohol abuse and dependency alone on U.S. health care costs can be put into perspective by using statistics for an average year during the first decade of this new century:

Cancer—$96 billion a year in health care spending costs; $338 million a year spent on National Institutes of Health (NIH ) research.

Alcoholism—$185 billion a year in health-related costs; $35 million in NIH research support spending annually.

Drug Abuse—$110 billion a year in health-related costs; $63 million

Given that alcoholism is almost twice as costly to the U.S. health care system as cancer, and that drug abuse-related illness is also more expensive than cancer care, why aren’t these abuse targets and their potential cost savings the number one health and budgetary issue for all levels of government?   I’ll get to that question later in this book, when I take a look at the social and political forces that shape public perceptions of whether substance abuse is a mental illness or a moral failing.

Excerpted from RECOVER TO LIVE: KICK ANY HABIT, MANAGE ANY ADDICTION by Christopher Kennedy Lawford. Copyright (c) 2013 by Christopher Kennedy Lawford. Reprinted by arrangement with BenBella Books, Inc.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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