TODAY   |  August 07, 2013

Arianna Huffington’s daughter: Cocaine almost killed me

The daughter of media mogul Arianna Huffington is adding her voice to the discussion of teenage addiction, opening up about her cocaine addiction, which started at age 16 and almost cost her life. Christina Huffington and mom Arianna talk to TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie about her struggles.

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

>> our cover story this morning, addiction. these headlines are all too familiar, from the tragic deaths of cory monteith and amy winehouse to the public disbehavior of lindsey lohan and amanda bynes . but now christina huffington, daughter of arianna huffington is sharing her story in glamour magazine . she says cocaine nearly killed her.

>> reporter: she was just 16 when she first tried cocaine. 24-year-old christina huffington grew up in the white hot glare of the media spotlight. her famous parents going through a very public divorce when she was young. it was the drama that played out on camera but few saw the damage going on off camera. christina 's drug and alcohol use spiralled out of control.

>> they are brilliant at doing it. it could be right under your nose and you never know it. if you see the slightest sign. you're seeing the tip of the iceberg .

>> reporter: for years christina successfully hid her drug and alcohol abuse from her parents, her friends, her bosses, she even got into yale but began snorting cocaine daily. she was hired at glamour magazine .

>> she was a fantastic intern. her internship happened to fall during a period she was not using drugs.

>> reporter: christina attended a women of the year event with her mom who was being honored. she developed chest pains caused from a cocaine bing the night before. on that day she confessed to her mom and sought help. she has been sober for over a year and now she is telling her story to dispel the glamourization of drug use .

>> her drug addiction was not her up all night at fantastic parties. it was her had loan in her dorm room at 7:00 in the morning getting high. and i think with high profile cases like the tragic death of cory monteith and people like lindsey lohan that struggled from addiction it's important to hear from a woman that's gone through that that can say you can do it. it's hard but you can do it.

>> christina huffington is with us this morning exclusively along with her mom, arianna huffington , founder of the huffington i was struck by this piece. there is nothing glamorous about what you described. can you give us a snapshot. at it's worse, what was life really like for you.

>> absolutely unglamorous. it was very much me by myself, in my apartment, using drugs all day from morning to night. there was nothing fun about it. i wasn't at fun parties. i was depressed. i was scared and anxious and felt isolated and alone.

>> it sounded to me from reading your piece that you were almost immediately addicted. some people think they can flirt with drugs but it sounds like the second you tried cocaine it was a problem.

>> yes, i think for me cocaine was my drug and it sort of really quickly erased all of my insecurities, all my fears. all of my ideas -- the idea that i'm not good enough that i think a lot of people can relate to, especially young women . and all of a sudden with one line i was on top of the world .

>> you have been through a lot. you lost your father young. you have a great mom. i know that you're both so close. was it shocking to you?

>> well, absolutely. we got divorced but her father has been very involved in her life. but i think what happened is that when christina decided to go public about her struggle and her recovery, we rallied as a family because we felt that millions of young people in their teens and 20s struggling with alcohol and drug addiction and if christina 's story can prevent one parent watching now from getting the call that i got of mommy i can't breathe and help one young woman or young man come out, reach out for help and know that you can turn your life around, then it would have been worth it.

>> and christina it wasn't seize easy to come forward like this. one thing is people would say she had every advantage and every resource available to her. what would you say to that?

>> i understand that criticism and i've seen that criticism. even today when my mom posted something on facebook. it's the idea that i've been really blessed and i have been really blessed. that's part of the reason i struggled coming forward but what i want to show is that addiction can strike no matter what. you can come from a loving family. you can have financial resources and you can still feel that pit of loneliness and emptiness and that desire to fill it with substances. so i wanted to give a different face to the disease.

>> we have twitter questions and a few of them are pretty thought provoking. one is from joe. what's one thing you lost due to your addiction that you wish you could have back.

>> the biggest thing i lost, i actually have regained which is my self-esteem and my self-worth which were shattered when i got sober a year and a half ago. i felt like i was the scum of the earth and now i have slowly rebuilt that self-esteem through the last year and a half.

>> and arianna, from the mother's perspective, did you have any suspicion at all, that's probably the tip of the iceberg .

>> yes, well, 5 million young people, teenagers, people in their 20s who need treatment and only 10% of them get treatment. so for me this is also a moment to restart a whole conversation about the drug war that we're basically waging against our own children. 725,000 people are arrested every year for drug violations. and yet so few of them get treatment. that's really, for me, what we need to change. and if christina 's story can help that, can stop the sort of emergency visits, almost 1 million a year for all the violations, it really would be a great conversation for us to have.

>> well, it's a personal story that will start that conversation for sure. arianna and christina , thank you for being here.

>> thank you savannah.

>> thank you.

>> this appears in the september issue of glamour magazine . here's