Aaron Hernandez: Drug Addiction & Mental Health
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07-16-13 Category: Dual Diagnosis, Mental Health

Aaron Hernandez may never step onto a football field again.

After signing a 5-year, $40 million contract with the New England Patriots, Hernandez has been released from the team. He has been arrested for the murder of another football player, 27 year old Odin Lloyd.

What would cause a young, successful professional athlete to risk his entire life and career? Why is Aaron Hernandez sadly another statistic in this crazy world of athletes and violence?

Hernandez was first in the media when he and his girlfriend, Shayanna Jenkins had an altercation one night. The Hermosa Beach Police Department responded to what was first thought to be a suicide attempt because Aaron’s wrist was cut, but was later identified as Aaron being so angry that he punched a window.

Life Changing Events?

Shayanna gave birth to the couple’s daughter and Aaron told the press that he was changing his ways. He knew that his life was no longer about just himself, and he wanted to start being a better man. Instead, Aaron was involved in public episodes of violence, bar fights, and arrests.

When Odin Lloyd was found dead, all kinds of people came out of the woodwork with stories and accusations about Aaron Hernandez. One man said that Hernandez shot him in the face when driving away from a strip club in Miami. A series of murders in Boston are also being linked to Hernandez.

What is going on in this young man’s life? There has to be more than just football and a bit of anger if this many stories have surfaced, and if Aaron is currently in jail.

A Dual Diagnosis

When drug addiction and mental illness combine in any one person’s life, the consequences are unpredictable and can be very dangerous. In the case of a professional football player in top shape, groomed for the highest level of competition, the combination of substances and unstable mental health can be even worse. When a person is suffering from mental health and drug addiction abuses it’s refereed to as a dual diagnosis.

Does Aaron Hernandez have a mental illness? He claims that the death of his father majorly messed him up. Aaron was a junior in high school when his father, a former football player himself, went in for a seemingly routine hernia operation, but quickly died from complications. Aaron’s mother says he was less outgoing, and become friends with the wrong crowd. It has not been reported whether Aaron received any mental health treatment at the time.

When left untreated, the difficult symptoms of a mental illness like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a personality disorder can take over a person’s life. In an effort to self-medicate the untreated symptoms, many mental illness sufferers turn to drugs and alcohol.


The co-occurrence of depression and alcoholism has reached unbelievably high rates. You feel down, hopeless, sad, and worthless, so you drink. Being drunk provides release; an escape from the painful emotions and unresolved grief, at least temporarily. You wake up the next day feeling even worse, so you drink again. The cycle continues until you are left wondering, do I drink because I am depressed, or am I depressed because I drink?

In Aaron’s case, marijuana and possibly other substances were used in much the same way, to help him manage the pain surrounding his father’s death.

Since he appears to have never been treated for mental illness or drug addiction, his symptoms progressively got worse. We don’t know for sure, at this point, that Aaron was involved in Odin Lloyd’s murder, but unfortunately, all signs point to his anger and desire to control the situation.

Not The First Athlete Involved In Murder

Aaron is not the first athlete to be linked to a murder, or to the co-occurrence of mental illness and drug addiction, so what is happening to the people we pay top dollar to play sports for us? Is the pressure to perform weighing too heavily? Does the combination of an untreated mental illness and substance abuse make for a successful athlete on the field, but ruin any chance at a normal life elsewhere?

Dual diagnosis means that a single person shows enough symptoms of two disorders to be clinically diagnosed with each one at the same time. Depression with alcoholism, as mentioned before. Anxiety and an eating disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder and cocaine addiction.

Could Aaron Hernandez be living a completely different life if he had received counseling, or another form of mental health treatment, following his father’s death? Would Odin Lloyd still be alive? Would Aaron’s daughter have her father home, and could Aaron be working hard to earn that $40 million?

For countless people all over the world, dual diagnosis is a daily reality. Treatment is necessary, and available, for those who need it

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