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Rep. Kennedy to enter drug rehab

The congressman denies that he was drinking when he crashed his car, but admits he is addicted to prescription medication.

Published May 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy said Friday he will enter treatment for addiction to prescription pain medication after a middle-of-the-night car crash near the Capitol that he said he had no memory of. "That's not how I want to live my life," he said.

Kennedy, D-R.I., the son of Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, said he would seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

His one-car accident about 3 a.m. Thursday was the talk of the capital, with police saying he appeared to be intoxicated. Kennedy denies that, saying he'd had nothing to drink.

For Kennedy, who said he has suffered from depression and pain-medication addiction for years, the trip to the Mayo Clinic was his second in less than five months. He went there over Christmas.

"I've been fighting this chronic disease since I was a young man and have aggressively and periodically sought treatment so that I can live a full and productive life," he said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

"Of course, in every recovery, each day has its ups and downs, but I have been strong, focused and productive since my return," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he realized he needed to seek treatment again after he crashed his car. Capitol Police cited him with three traffic violations and said Friday their investigation is continuing. Kennedy said he will cooperate with police.

The incident has stirred suspicion that Kennedy was drinking and that he received special treatment from police. He said he could not recall the accident.

"I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police, or being cited for three driving infractions," Kennedy said. "That's not how I want to live my life. And that's not how I want to represent the people of Rhode Island."

Kennedy, 38, was elected to Congress in 1994. As he left the lectern Friday, he shook his head no when asked if he might resign. "I need to stay in the fight," he said.

As a high school senior, the congressman was treated at a drug rehabilitation clinic before he went to Providence College.

The congressman's father issued a statement saying he was proud of his son for admitting his problem and taking steps to correct it.

"He has taken full responsibility for events that occurred ... and he will continue to cooperate fully with any investigation," the elder Kennedy said.

According to the police report, Patrick Kennedy drove his green 1997 Ford Mustang convertible into a security barrier near the Capitol. The officer listed alcohol influence as a contributing factor in the crash and noted that Kennedy was "ability impaired," with red, watery eyes, slurred speech and unsteady balance.

Kennedy said that he took a sleeping pill and another drug that can cause drowsiness before the accident but had not been drinking alcohol.

He was cited for failure to keep in the proper lane, traveling at "unreasonable speed" and failing to "give full time and attention" to operating his vehicle.

Patrick J. Kennedy

AGE: 38

BIRTH DATE: July 14, 1967

EDUCATION: B.A. in social science, Providence College, 1991.

EXPERIENCE: Elected to three terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives; six terms in U.S. House.

FAMILY: Single. Parents are Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Joan Bennett Kennedy.

[Last modified May 6, 2006, 07:59:30]

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