December 11th, 2008
03:12 PM ET
14 years ago

Bush reflects on struggle with alcohol

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Bush reflected on his own addiction to alcohol."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush reflected on his own struggle with alcohol in a White House meeting today to tout gains in the war on drug abuse.

CNN was the only media outlet invited to attend the entire meeting, which other reporters joined in the final minutes for remarks from the president.

Several in the room, including Don Coyhis of Colorado Springs, Colorado who runs a program targeting Native Americans battling substance abuse, were recovered addicts or alcoholics.

Bush, who quit drinking at the age of 40, was impressed.

"Congratulations on thirty years of sobriety," the president told Coyhis. "I'm eight years behind you."

The president told the group of fourteen, all leaders in drug prevention, treatment and interdiction programs around the country, that a new study shows teen drug abuse has dropped 25 percent since he took office in 2001.

"No question there's still work to do in America, but we are making progress," said Mr. Bush.
But the study by the University of Michigan cautioned that progress could be threatened by a drop in the percentage of young people who think marijuana is harmful. And it found a high percentage of teens are abusing prescription drugs – with nearly 10 percent of seniors reporting using Vicodin over the last year, nearly 5 percent abusing Oxycontin.

Bush listened to participants' stories and shared some candid moments.

Professional baseball player Josh Hamilton, who once suffered from a debilitating drug addiction, talked about seeking help from eight different treatment centers. "They didn't work for me," he said.

It wasn't until his grandmother confronted him while he was high on drugs that something clicked.

"That moment cleared my mind, opened my heart, and that following night I committed my life to Christ," said Hamilton.

President Bush praised the effectiveness of the programs represented, most private and faith-based.

"I'm a faith-based guy," explained Mr. Bush. "Sometimes to help change a person's behavior, you have to change their heart. Government's not really good at that."

Former New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. talked about why he was motivated to launch a student drug testing program that has now spread to 20 city high schools.

Over his nearly 30-year-career, Connick said, "I sent a lot of people to the penitentiary. But at one point I thought, this is not enough."

The father of singer Harry Connick Jr. maintained the best way to reduce demand for drugs is to test high school students.

Dr. Katie McQueen advocated more careful screening of patients for substance abuse by hospitals and doctors.

"Of the millions of people who need help, most don't get it because they don't think they need it.," explained McQueen.

When McQueen announced her Houston program was based in "the great state of Texas," President Bush interrupted with a broad smile, "I'll be home in about – but who's counting – 39 days."

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, discussed research that shows that 50 percent of a person's vulnerability to drug addiction is genetic.
President Bush asked whether the same was true of alcohol abuse.

"There's clearly a genetic component," responded Volkow. "That's why prevention is so important."

Lt. Mike Boudreaux of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department described his battle to eradicate marijuana fields on California public lands.

"It's a daunting task," said Boudreaux of their efforts that often involve confronting dangerous Mexican drug dealers intent on protecting their hidden fields.

Boudreaux added that his mother said to tell President Bush she prays for him.

"One of the most striking aspects of being president is the power of prayer in my life. I feel it," said Mr. Bush. "Some days are happy. Some days are not so happy. But every day is joyous."

Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (311 Responses)
  1. Tim from Ohio

    Bush is a stupid, idiot, moron, numbskull, alcoholic, coke head, liar, cheater, thief, sinner, full of corruption, communist.

    December 11, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  2. Jon


    December 11, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  3. Larry

    TOTAL honesty-that's Is what you get from Bush--He did like to party,back in the day.

    December 11, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  4. Cynthia - Arkansas

    Reflects on what? Last week, last night. He was caught on tape howling drunk just a few months ago. I don't believe he ever stopped.

    December 11, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  5. Jim Hall

    The village idiot is still an alcholic and coke head that is why he spends so much time in Crawford away from the public Jim Hall Kansas City Missouri

    December 11, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  6. Blue is my favourite colour

    I'm not convinced that he has quit drinking.

    His irrational behavior and the "ignorant speak" he uses when talking are just 2 indications of a problem not yet resolved.

    December 11, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  7. Bob

    funny i have always been allergic to alcohol, and get no real high/buzz
    from it. it must be very potent in terms of making someone feel good.

    December 11, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  8. Elloc

    Alcohol abuse is a choice, much like abuse of power, food, cocaine or whatever. Depression and other personality disorders play a role, but do not take the choice out of it. Cancer is a disease. Drinking, eating or abusing anything are choices. The new rehab models will recognize this and will succeed far beyond the reported 5-10% success of 12-steps. That said, whatever works for the addict, just don't preach false-science of one way being the only way.

    December 11, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  9. Phil

    Hey I think that's how Bush got brain damaged. It all makes sense now.

    December 11, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  10. tj

    Sure hs seniors use vicodin. Considering a large number of kids have their wisdom teeth removed in 12th grade. So bush was a former alcoholic. I think its a heroic thing to mention in such a meeting

    December 12, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  11. Ken

    What he SHOULD BE reflecting on are the 100,000's of murders of people that he's responsible for . . .

    December 12, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
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