Melissa Gilbert became one of America's most beloved child stars with her starring role on the long-running TV series "Little House on the Prairie." Now the actress is opening up about her alcohol addiction that developed in the shadow of her fame, and she discusses her own efforts to combat the abuse of prescription drugs by young people.
The former contestant on last season's "Dancing With the Stars" ended her run on "Little House on the Prairie" in 1983, and explains that she didn't have addiction problems until years later: "when I hit my late 30s, and my grandfather passed away and something in me just triggered, and I started having a hard time falling asleep." She reveals that at her worst, she was consuming about two bottles of wine per night in a bid to drown her pain.
Gilbert said that once she got sober, she was reluctant to even accept painkillers -- even after she broke her back while performing a stage musical production of "Little House" about a year-and-a-half before she did "DWTS" -- for fear that she would become addicted. She also suffered a concussion during the hit ABC dancing competition, but again said she did not turn to prescription pain pills.
Gilbert also said she had to deal with drug and alcohol addiction with her own kids, and she spoke about the huge problem of prescription drug addiction today, especially among youths. "This problem is so pervasive," she said. "But the thing that's at the heart of it that gets me is that when a parent finds out that their child has a drug problem, they immediately feel like it's just them."
The star said growing up today as a child star is dramatically different than when she was young. "There's something different now that didn't exist when I was growing up," she said. "Now everyone is a paparazzi. Everyone who has a phone can take a picture of you anywhere at any time, doing anything -- there is absolutely no privacy."
Gilbert currently works with the organization The Partnership at Drugfree.org, which seeks to help parents persuade their children not to try prescription drugs over the next five years.