Winfrey Admits Cocaine Use, ‘Life’s Great Big Secret’

<i> from Associated Press</i>

Oprah Winfrey admitted on her talk show Friday that she used cocaine years ago and that even though she quit, it has been a “great big secret that has always been held over my head.”

Winfrey, 40, was interviewing four mothers who had experienced problems with drugs when she turned to one of the guests who had admitted using cocaine and said, “I did your drug.”

Most of the show was devoted to the problems of Charmane Brown, a young woman who had written to Oprah for help in coping with her own intermittent cocaine use. The show was taped on Thursday in Chicago, where Winfrey’s production company is based, and broadcast locally Friday.


The young woman referred several times during the show to Winfrey’s strength and honesty. In reply to one such comment about halfway through the show, Oprah turned to her and admitted her own drug use, pausing first to gain her composure.

“This is probably one of the hardest things I have ever said,” Winfrey said. “I relate to your story so much. I have done this drug--I know exactly what you are talking about.”

“And that is my life’s great big secret that has always been held over my head,” she added.

Winfrey foreshadowed her confession earlier in the show in a discussion with another of the guests, Patricia Gaines, a Washington Post reporter who has written a book chronicling her own experiences with drug abuse.

When Gaines was talking about the role of male lovers in encouraging women to use drugs, Winfrey said, “This is so familiar it makes my head hurt.”

Winfrey said she used the drug about 20 years ago as part of her relationship with a boyfriend. The drug use ended with the relationship, she said.

“I can’t thank of anything I wouldn’t have done for that man,” she said.

She said the drug use occurred while she was an anchorwoman on a television news show.

“I had a perfect round little Afro, I went to church every Sunday and I went to Wednesday prayer meeting when I could . . . and I did drugs,” she said.

Through her syndicated talk show, she is now a multimillionaire.

Winfrey did not say on the air what form of cocaine she had used, but Deborah Johns, a spokeswoman for the show, said later that she understood the drug had been smoked.

She didn’t know what city Winfrey was living in at the time.

Johns said Winfrey would not be available for interviews on the subject.

“Oprah’s words on the show are the best expression of how she feels,” Johns said.