Death of ‘Glee’ Star Leads To Questions
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07-17-13 Category: Addiction Treatment

This past week, many in the world of Hollywood and prime time TV were shocked by the sudden death of ‘Glee’ star Cory Monteith. The 31 year-old Monteith, who played football star Finn Hudson on the popular Fox show, died of mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol, in his Vancouver hotel room Saturday July, 13. The unexpected death, so far ruled accidental, sent shockwaves throughout the world of TV and addiction treatment alike.

Though Mr. Monteith’s death came as a tragic surprise, this was not his first encounter with substance use, prompting further questions about the state of drug and alcohol abuse in this country as a whole.  In March, he voluntarily checked into a rehabilitation facility for substance addiction; he first went to rehab after his family staged an intervention when he was 19.

Mr. Monteith had been battling substance use for much of his adolescent and adult life, and his struggle makes us really beg the question, how many other young adults are suffering with substance use and what we are doing to help them?

The Severe Problem Of Substance Abuse In America

Mr. Monteith’s tragedy highlights the severe problem of substance use in the U.S. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2005 to 2010, nearly 15% of Americans, based on selections of individuals across the country, used some type of illicit drug within the past year. These substances included marijuana, pain killers and other dangerous drugs such as cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants.

The study also found that nearly a quarter of Americans reported Alcohol Binge use within the past month during the same period. Additionally, SAMHSA estimated that 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009.

Clearly, Mr. Monteith was not the only one dealing with alcohol and drug problems.  What’s worse is that of all these people suffering from substance use, few are getting the treatment they need.

Numbers Behind Specialized Treatment

Of the 23.5 million only 2.6 million, or 11.2 percent, received treatment in a specialized facility, such as the type of dual diagnosis facilities run by Sovereign Health. While some of the individuals suffering may indeed have received some care in other forms, such as hospitals or through primary physicians, the greater likelihood is that most never received any serious care for their problems. Considering the severity that many of these individuals face within their substance use, having so few in proper treatment is becoming a real problem.

The question before us now is; what are we going to do about this problem? One of the most important and effective answers is prevention and education. By reaching out to people when they are young, or just beginning the struggle with alcohol or drug use, addiction professionals can have an easier time directing treatment efforts and be able to catch the problem before it blows out of proportion.

If that step doesn’t work, or for those who are past the initial stages, the best option is the expansion of addiction services to the public. Expanding access to addiction services is extremely important to helping save lives.  Whether this is through growing existing addiction facilities, something Sovereign Health Group continues to do, opening other facilities or making access easier by expanding insurance coverage or donations, making sure that addiction services are available can help fight substance use.

Cory Monteith’s case is just one acute example of a much larger problem in the U.S..  Sadly Mr. Monteith’s situation, a history with battling drug and alcohol abuse, is a story playing out across many homes in the U.S. Hopefully we can use this tragedy for a better purpose; showing us just how dire the substance use problem is and spur us to find ways to solve it.

Blog Post By: Jared Friedman

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