BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: A special report now on the debate about how best to help drug and alcohol addicts. The conventional approach is through psychological therapy. There can also be a spiritual component. But what is the best combination of therapy and spirituality? Lucky Severson reports.
LUCKY SEVERSON: What's most amazing for Tonja Myles, as she walks through her old neighborhood, is that she survived it.
Ms. TONJA MYLES (Founder, Set Free Indeed Ministry and Clinic): It was a place where I did a lot of illegal stuff. A lot of bad things happened in this neighborhood. I was molested when I was 7. By the time I was 10, I was sexually active on my own. I did drugs here. I did prostitution from out of my own home.
SEVERSON: She was raped twice and had two abortions. And she was addicted to every kind of illegal drug she could get her hands on.
Ms. MYLES: I didn't think I could be set free. But thank God for a praying grandmother who told me that God can set me free. The drugs were the demons, and she said, "If you would give your life over to God, he will forgive you. He would redeem you."
SEVERSON: Tonja Myles was a victim of what some experts call the number one crime problem and the number one health problem in this country -- substance abuse.
JOSEPH CALIFANO (Founder, The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University): This is a problem that pervades our society. I mean, it's the elephant in the living room of all our social problems, and no one wants to look at it.
SEVERSON: Joseph Califano is a former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Carter and the founder of CASA -- The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
Mr. CALIFANO: This is the most pernicious problem this country faces.
SEVERSON: And yet, he says, there's a tragic disconnect in the way we treat substance abuse, a conflict between the medical and spiritual approaches to addiction treatment. Many doctors are reluctant to recommend spiritual healing, and many clergy are not prepared to recognize the need for medical treatment.
Mr. CALIFANO: The most important thing is to marry what doctors can do and what treatment professionals can do with the spiritual component, because the combination is very powerful. If you talk to recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, the overwhelming proportion of them -- I'm talking something like 90 percent -- are going to tell you that spirituality was a major factor.
SEVERSON: Addiction in this country is such an overwhelming and costly problem, with not nearly enough treatment programs or programs that work. What's needed now, some experts are saying, is what's happening here in Baton Rouge: a mixture of clinical treatment and spiritual counseling. "Recovery," they say, "begins at the cross."
Ms. MYLES (Speaking to Group of Patients): What is the cross a place of? Death and a place of life. Rebirth.
SEVERSON: That's Tonja Myles, the former addict who wanted to kill herself. Now, she and her husband Darren operate a faith-based addiction clinic in Baton Rouge. They say it's the first of its kind -- one that receives federal funding and where counselors go through a 2,000-hour state-run addiction training program.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1 (Praying): Thank you for letting us all be here today, Lord. Thank you for watching over us today.
SEVERSON: Tonja started the clinic, she says, because churches simply weren't getting involved in substance abuse, even though over 90 percent of clergy consider it one of the most daunting problems they face.
Ms. MYLES: Churches needed to start dealing with addicts because churches didn't. They didn't want to deal with me. They told me to get out of Dodge and go see an exorcist or something.
SEVERSON: The funding came after her work caught the eye of President Bush, a strong believer in faith-based programs.
Ms. MYLES (During Group Session): That's why we end up using drugs, 'cause there's something about ourselves, or something that happened to [one's] self, that we don't like. So we end up doing something to alter it.
SEVERSON: She says her clients come from rich neighborhoods and poor. They're required to spend at least nine hours a week here for four months and to pay what they can, as long as they pay something. They aren't asked about their religion, but the Bible plays a prominent role.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: If you go to Proverbs, chapter three, verses five through six: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, and in all ways acknowledge him."
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: The only way I can be happy with myself is to draw near to God and realize that all my worth comes from him.