Dan Harris, ‘Nightline’ and ‘Good Morning America’ Anchor, Says Cocaine and Ecstasy Led to Meltdown

February 12, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

Dan Harris, an anchor for ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “Nightline,” says that cocaine and ecstasy use led to an on-air meltdown years ago.

Harris was filling in on GMA for co-hosts Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson, but froze when the camera switched to him for a brief newscast.

“I was overtaken by a massive, irresistible blast of fear. It felt like the world was ending,” Harris revealed on Wednesday. “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.”

The situation happened in 2004.

Harris said that he began self-medicating after spending several years covering wars in Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, and Iraq. 

“In an act of towering stupidity, I began to self-medicate, dabbling with cocaine and ecstasy,” he said. “I’m not talking ‘Wolf of Wall Street’-level debauchery. My intake was sporadic, and mostly restricted to weekends.”

The drugs increased the adrenaline in Harris’ brain, boosting the odds of a panic attack. While he hadn’t used drugs that day, the on-air meltdown was because of them.

Harris was then reassigned to cover faith, and got into meditation, which he says replaced the drugs.

“To be clear, meditation won’t magically solve all of your problems. I still do dumb things–just ask my wife — but meditation is often effective kryptonite against the kind of epic mindlessness that produced my televised panic attack,” he said. “When friends and colleagues ask (usually with barely hidden skepticism) why I meditate, I often say, ‘It makes me 10% happier.'”

He’s even written a book, “10% Happier,” which will be released in March.

“Am I worried about what kind of reaction people will have to my getting personal in this way? Absolutely,” Harris concluded.

“At the very least, it’ll be a good test of my meditation practice.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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