By ANDREW MIGA
The Associated Press
Saturday, May 6, 2006; 2:15 AM
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Patrick Kennedy entered treatment for addiction to prescription pain drugs late Friday 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 declared.
Kennedy, D-R.I., the son of Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, is being treated 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 but Kennedy saying later that day that he had 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 and said he returned to Congress "reinvigorated and healthy."
"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 was continuing. Kennedy promised to cooperate with police.
The accident sparked allegations that Kennedy was drinking and had received special treatment by 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, a nephew of President Kennedy, 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. He did not take other questions.
As a high school senior, Kennedy was treated at a drug rehabilitation clinic before he went to Providence College. He has said he wants to end the stigma of mental health problems, and he has been praised by mental health professionals for being open about his struggles with depression, alcoholism and substance abuse. He also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
"I hope that my openness today and in the past, and my acknowledgment that I need help, will give others the courage to get help if they need it," he said Friday.
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.
However, Kennedy said that he took a sleeping pill and another drug that can cause drowsiness before the accident but had not been drinking alcohol.
Kennedy told the police officer he was "headed to the Capitol to make a vote," the report said. 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.
Kennedy spokeswoman Robin Costello acknowledged the police report but said in an e-mailed message, "The congressman has not been presented with those traffic tickets."
Louis P. Cannon, president of the Washington chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, who was not on the scene, said the officers involved in the accident were instructed by an official "above the rank of patrolman" to take Kennedy home and that no sobriety tests were conducted at the scene.
"I never asked for any preferential treatment," Kennedy told reporters as he left his congressional office Thursday night.
It was Kennedy's second auto crash in three weeks. His car struck the rear passenger door of a car while he was making a left turn from a roadway into a pharmacy in Portsmouth, R.I., according to a police report on the April 15 accident. No injuries were reported and Kennedy was not cited.
In the Capitol Hill accident, police observed Kennedy's car, with no headlights on, swerve into the wrong lane and strike a curb. Kennedy nearly hit a police car, the report said, and did not respond to the officer's efforts to pull him over. He continued at a slower speed before hitting a security barrier head-on, the report said.
Kennedy said that he'd gone home Wednesday evening after work and had taken "the prescribed amount" of Phenergan, a prescription anti-nausea drug that can cause drowsiness, and Ambien, a sleep medication.
The attending physician for Congress had prescribed Phenergan on May 2 to treat Kennedy's gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. According to the drug's label, Phenergan can increase the effects of sleep medicines such as Ambien.
Kennedy was prescribed Ambien on April 25 for insomnia, according to a statement from Dr. John F. Eisold, the attending physician for Congress. Kennedy's office released the statement.
Ambien comes with a warning to patients that it can cause confusion, strange behavior and hallucinations. Also, it is to be taken only when patients have time for a full eight hours of sleep, allowing its effects to wear off, according to its Food and Drug Administration-approved label.
Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.