In an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer that aired Tuesday, Cameron, 40, admitted that at age 13 he was regularly using marijuana. By the time he was 15, he was snorting cocaine, which led to crystal meth at 17, liquid cocaine at 19 and heroin at the age of 26.
Cameron's issues began when he was 7, when he realized that father was cheating on his mother, Diandra Luker, and after watching his big shot family members constantly party, he said.
Michael was married to Diandra Luker from 1977 to 2000. Michael has since remarried to actress Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Luker revealed Michael's drug use to their son, as well as the affair, which led him to binge eat and cry himself to sleep at night, Cameron said.
"How close were you to dying?" Sawyer asked Camerson during their interview.
"Probably pretty close," he said.
In Cameron's upcoming book, "Long Way Home," he recalled "playing a game of chicken with [himself]," abusing drugs because of a dark life in the shadows of his famous family.
Michael was also present for the interview. He admitted to not providing a great life for his son.
"My career was first. My career came before my family," Michael, 75, said. "My marriage was not great and so you do hide yourself in your work... I should have focused more on my family, but that's hard to say when you're in the midst of a career when you're stepping out of your own father's shadow, trying to create a life [of] your own."
Cameron then revealed that his liquid cocaine habit led to the veins in his arms collapsing, so he began injecting into other places on his body to satisfy his addiction, including his rib cage and his neck.
For years, Michael encouraged his son to seek help, once promising Cameron a starring role in a film alongside Kirk, now 102, and himself. Cameron starred in the film but turned back to drugs.
In another attempt, Michael hired two men to kidnap his son and take him to rehab, but the job was called off after Cameron became too aggressive, he said.
"I think everything made me angry," Cameron recalled. "I was so angry at myself."
After that attempt, Cameron and Michael stopped talking for "quite a while." Michael cut his son off, he said.
"We had reached a point where I thought I was going to lose him based on everything I'd seen," Michael said. "And I was not willing to emotionally commit anymore."
Being cut off led to Cameron robbing at gunpoint, which he called the "lowest point" of his life.
Cameron would later spend a total of seven years behind bars, two of those in solitary confinement. In prison, support groups and meditation helped him to turn his life around, he said.
"It was getting away from addiction and allowing me to see things more clearly, and then the constant love and support of my family -- never giving up on me," Cameron said.
He received news in jail that his father had been diagnosed with stage four throat cancer, and a visit from his sick father was a turning point for the young actor, he said.
"I've never seen somebody's body change so drastically. I mean, it's a real fight for your life," Cameron said.
His grandfather also joined Michael to visit him, and Cameron was happy to see both of them, he said. He now has tattoos of his father and grandfather on his chest as a sign of coming to peace with their legacies.
Cameron has been clean for five years and is now a father. He continues to pursue his acting career.