Cameron Douglas opens up about drug addiction and prison time

PHOTO: Cameron Douglas, the son of legendary actor Michael Douglas, is seen here during an interview with ABC News Diane Sawyer.PlayABC News
WATCH Cameron Douglas on growing up in a Hollywood dynasty: Part 1

Cameron Douglas' longtime struggle with addiction brought the son of a Hollywood icon, Michael Douglas, to his knees after a downward spiral landed him in federal prison for seven years -- including two in solitary confinement.

The father and son sat down for an exclusive interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer to discuss the details of Cameron Douglas' new memoir, "Long Way Home," the profound impact his destructive drug use had on their family and the moment Michael Douglas almost gave up hope. Now, they hope this story will serve as a cautionary tale.

Cameron Douglas (right) is seen here with his father Michael Douglas (left) in this family photo. Cameron Douglas/Long Way Home
Cameron Douglas (right) is seen here with his father Michael Douglas (left) in this family photo.

Cameron Douglas, now 40, details in his book the progression of his drug use. He started smoking marijuana at 13, snorted cocaine at 15, sampled crystal meth at 17, eventually becoming addicted to liquid cocaine and heroin.

When Sawyer asked him candidly how close he was to dying, he answered, "Probably pretty close."

Cameron Douglas wrote that he was "playing a game of chicken" with his life.

On July 28, 2009, Cameron Douglas was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration in a sting operation and later pleaded guilty to heroin possession and conspiracy to distribute drugs. He served seven years and was released in 2016.

He agreed with Sawyer that its "a kind of miracle" he is OK today.

"I like the sound of that word," he said with a smile. "It sounds good. We'll see if I can turn it into that. I think that remains to be seen."

His Oscar-winning father, who was 34 when Cameron was born, was part of a dynasty of iconic men. Michael Douglas' father, Kirk, first carved a name for their family in Hollywood with a signature kind of tough glamour.

"I wanted to impress him. I wanted him to be my friend. I revered him," Cameron Douglas wrote in his book about his relationship with his father.

Sitting beside his now-adult son, Michael Douglas looked at a baby photo of his firstborn and said, "It's a cute tushie."

"Same tush," Michael joked.

"Even better," Cameron replied with a smile.

But that curious and lovely boy, as his dad put it, changed so much as a teenager and got caught up in a rough crowd.

"You rack your brain and you take it personally in the beginning, you start blaming yourself," the father said. "Then you look at your genetic makeup. I should've changed my priorities. My career was first. My career came before my family."

"My marriage was not great," Michael Douglas added. "So you do hide yourself in your work -- I should've focused more on my family, but that's hard to say when you're in the midst of a career, when you are in your own mind, stepping out of your father's shadow, trying to create a life for your own."

PHOTO: Cameron Douglas, Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas attend the ceremony honoring Michael Douglas with a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame held on November 06, 2018, in Hollywood. Michael Tran/FilmMagic via Getty Images, FILE
Cameron Douglas, Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas attend the ceremony honoring Michael Douglas with a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame held on November 06, 2018, in Hollywood.

In a family rescue mission, both Kirk and Michael Douglas invited Cameron to co-star in the movie "It Runs in the Family" with them -- as long as he went to rehab first. It was Cameron's first featured role.

"You knew you were good in it?" Sawyer asked Cameron Douglas.

"Yes, yeah," he confirmed laughing.

In his book, Cameron Douglas wrote that sometimes there's just a crack deep inside a person that they try to fill with drugs, and then the drugs take over as they recede from the safety of any shore.

"I thought that I was fundamentally not put together properly and that, since that was the case, I was just gonna take it as far as I could take it and come what may," he explained to Sawyer. "It was almost like, you know, the one thing that I could count on."

Cameron Douglas (right) is seen here with his father Michael Douglas (left) in this family photo. Cameron Douglas/Long Way Home
Cameron Douglas (right) is seen here with his father Michael Douglas (left) in this family photo.

"And I guess, I didn't have the courage to try to move forward without it," he said.

His addiction took an even more destructive turn when a friend of his showed him a new way, at the time, to use cocaine by injecting it as a liquid into his veins.

"People call it a 'bell ringer,' because you literally hear bells ringing in your head," he said in his memoir.

He recalled that he used liquid cocaine up to three times an hour. The needles scarred his veins, which then collapsed in his arms and legs.

Cameron Douglas said he also shot the drugs into his rib cage and neck.

Cameron Douglas is seen here after his prison release at his mothers house in 2016. Cameron Douglas/Long Way Home
Cameron Douglas is seen here after his prison release at his mother's house in 2016.

While Michael Douglas may have appeared to live a trouble free life, in reality the famous father was in despair in search of help for his son, just like many other parents who are struggling to save their own drug-addicted children.

At one point, Michael Douglas hired two men in effect to kidnap his son and take him to rehab, but Cameron Douglas became so aggressive the mission was called off.

"I think everything made me angry 'cause I was so angry at myself," he said, adding that his dad was also "desperate."

"I think we stopped talking for quite a while after that," he recalled of his contact with his concerned dad.

PHOTO: Michael Douglas & Cameron Douglas attend the premiere of It Runs In The Family in Westwood, Calif., April 07, 2003. L. Cohen/WireImage via Getty Images, FILE
Michael Douglas & Cameron Douglas attend the premiere of "It Runs In The Family" in Westwood, Calif., April 07, 2003.

Michael Douglas managed to reach out to his son on the phone and told him the tough conclusion he had come to: that he loved him, but he couldn't do this anymore because he thought Cameron was going to die.

"I did not think that you were going to make it. That you were going to kill somebody, or you were going to get killed," Michael Douglas said. "[We had] reached a point where I thought I was gonna lose him, based on everything I've seen. And was not willing to emotionally commit any more."

His son recalled that "those words were heartbreaking to me," and at the time, he asked, "Don't you love me anymore, Dad?"

Michael Douglas said he wondered, "At what point do you protect yourself or your other loved ones around you before you're getting dragged into this and it falls apart?"

Cameron Douglas girlfriend, Viviane Thibes, is seen here (left) with Douglas adopted half-sister Imara (through his mother Diandra), pictured center, and Douglas daughter, Lua (right). Courtesy Cameron Douglas
Cameron Douglas' girlfriend, Viviane Thibes, is seen here (left) with Douglas' adopted half-sister Imara (through his mother Diandra), pictured center, and Douglas' daughter, Lua (right).

Sawyer also sat down with Cameron Douglas' former fellow prisoners, who spoke about their time in prison and their time with Cameron as he began to confront his demons.

"Long Way Home" is available now wherever books are sold.

Caron Treatment Centers provided expert guidance for Diane Sawyer's report, "The Douglas Dynasty: Fame. Addiction. Finding Home." If you or your family would like to know more about how to help someone who might be battling addiction, see their resource guide HERE.