William Cope Moyers, the eldest child of Bill and Judith Moyers,
started recreational use of drugs during college days.
Unfortunately, he had a vulnerability to alcohol and drugs his
friends didn't share.
It was during a successful journalism career that eventually
took him to CNN that the 30-year-old began coming to terms with
his addiction. He realized, said his father, that he was sick
and needed to be treated just like someone with cancer or
After going through the experience with their son, the Moyerses
decided to put a human face on addiction. "My wife and I thought
we were sophisticated about addiction until it came close to
home," said the award-winning broadcaster who has received more
than 30 Emmys in his 26 years on TV.
The result is Moyers on Addiction: Close to Home, a five-part
series that begins Sunday on PBS. The production examines the
issue called America's No. 1 health problem by Brandeis
University Institute for Health Policy. It looks at dramatic
personal experience as well as the latest scientific inquiry and
public policy analysis.
It is also the centerpiece of a national outreach campaign
designed to raise awareness about a problem that destroys
individuals and tears families apart.
William Cope Moyers, called Cope by his family, has relapsed
several times in his battle against drug use. One relapse was a
year after treatment, another three years later. But the father
of three has become a leader in the recovery field, this year
becoming director of public policy for Hazelden, a treatment
center in St. Paul, Minn. A frequent public speaker, he appeared
recently at a conference of mayors at which one delegate praised
him for showing a white face to a problem mired in racial and
The moral judges include those who don't consider addiction a
disease but rather a matter of choice and weak will, Bill Moyers
said in a telephone interview. That thinking is "dead wrong,"
said the best-selling author, who spoke briefly of his son's
struggles with treatment and relapses over several years.
"Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease. Relapsing is as
normal a part of recovery as remission and the return of cancer
are to cancer patients."
Indeed, it is the scientific study of addiction that
particularly intrigued the Moyerses when, working as
co-executive producers, they began assembling their team for the
special. In Sunday's segment The Hijacked Brain, Moyers joins
Steven Hyman, director of the National Institute of Mental
Health, and other neuroscientists as they take images of a
cocaine user's brain.
Advances in genetics, brain chemistry and behavioral studies
offer great new hopes for treatment, said Thomas McLellan, a
researcher at the University of Pennsylvania in Monday's
episode, Changing Lives. For helping addicts looking for
treatment, he said, "this is the best of times."
Before his own personal inquiry, Moyers said he knew nothing
about how drugs change the brain.
"I had no idea of the extent to which the brain is permanently
compromised by chemicals. I did not know why it is that people
who are addicted will sacrifice everything -- good food,
shelter, health, work, the fetus in the womb -- to satisfy that
hunger for a chemical fix. I didn't know relapse was normal. I
thought it was defeat. I've learned how hard it is to recover.
This is a tenacious disease difficult to beat."
Moyers speaks passionately about this subject, which follows a
long, impressive list of documentaries he has produced on
subjects ranging from the power of myth, God and politics to
facing evil and hatred. …