TODAY   |  January 07, 2013

Kennedy cousins open up about addiction

Christopher Kennedy Lawford began abusing drugs at the age of 13, but has been in recovery now for more than 25 years. He talks about his new book, “Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction,” along with his cousin Patrick Kennedy, who discusses his own experiences with addiction.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> 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.