Nightline co-anchor Dan Harris blames a major on-air space-out he had in 2004 on his cocaine and Ecstasy use. The TV newsman is sober now, but felt he had to share this in a blog post.
"Shortly after seven on a sunny spring morning in 2004, I freaked out in front of five million people," Harris writes. "I was filling in on Good Morning America, anchoring the news updates at the top of each hour. I had done this job plenty of times before, so I had no reason to foresee what would happen shortly after the co-hosts, Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson, tossed it over to me for my brief newscast: I was overtaken by a massive, irresistible blast of fear. It felt like the world was ending. My heart was thumping. I was gasping for air. I had pretty much lost the ability to speak. And all of it was compounded by the knowledge that my freak-out was being broadcast live on national television. Halfway through the six stories I was supposed to read, I simply bailed, squeaking out a 'Back to you.'"
Harris first sought psychological help. "The doctor decreed in no uncertain terms that I needed to stop doing drugs - immediately," he explains. After returning from tours of war-torn regions in 2003, Harris "began to self-medicate, dabbling with cocaine and Ecstasy. I'm not talking Wolf of Wall Street-level debauchery. My intake was sporadic, and mostly restricted to weekends. I had never been much of a partier before this period in my early thirties. In hindsight, it was an attempt, at least partly, to recreate some of the thrill of the war zone. A side-effect of all of this, as my doctor explained to me, was that the drugs had increased the level of adrenaline in my brain, dramatically boosting the odds of a panic attack. It didn't matter that I hadn't gotten high in the days or weeks leading up to my on-air Waterloo; those side-effects lingered."
Harris found a solution to his problem with meditation. He calls it an "often effective Kryptonite against the kind of epic mindlessness that produced my televised panic attack."
In addition to Nightline (he became co-anchor in October), Harris has co-anchored the the weekend edition of Good Morning America since 2010. Harris is also the author of the upcoming 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story, due out Mar. 11.