The coroner of British Columbia, Canada confirmed yesterday that Glee actor Cory Monteith's death was accidental, and was due to the use of heroin and alcohol. Monteith, who played athlete and singer Finn on the popular show, died on July 13, 2013, and was found in his hotel room in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He was twenty-one years old.
Monteith's death is a warning to anyone who uses drugs or knows someone struggling with addiction. Drugs and alcohol can kill. Researchers have found that combining multiple drugs, or combining drugs and alcohol -- a practice known as simultaneous drug use (SDU) rather than mere concurrent drug use (CDU) -- can be more dangerous than using one drug at a time. In the most recent issue of the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, researchers note that harder drugs such as ketamine, heroin, and crystal meth were only used by study participants who were already using multiple drugs. Additionally, "the more often participants simultaneously used substances, the more likely they were to experience social problems."
Drugs injure and kill in ways that may not be obvious from Hollywood reports. For example, the use of morphine, heroin, cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol induces renal (kidney) toxicity. Chronic renal toxicity can lead to end-stage renal failure and death. For individuals addicted to heroin, renal disease complications include "membranous nephropathy, nephrotic syndrome, acute glomerulonephritis, focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis amyloidosis, interstitial nephritis, and rhabdomyolysis."
A high percentage of drug users consume illicit drugs with high frequency. Researchers at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts studied a high-risk population of teens admitted for drug use, and found that more than ten percent of them used "hard" drugs (ketamine, heroin, etc.) more than fifty times. The researchers note the "importance of prevention and immediate treatment when adolescent substance abuse is identified."
Even when drugs don't kill directly via organ toxicity, their neurological effects and the risks that accompany drug use often lead to death, a fact confirmed by multiple studies. Examining a cohort of opioid-dependent individuals in Australia, researchers found that almost nine of every ten deaths were avoidable. Causes of death included accidental overdose, suicide, motor vehicle accident, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and cancer. In a study of Swedish substance abusers released from prison, researchers found "a vast majority of deaths" were "due to violent or substance-related causes." "Significant predictors [of death]," the researchers noted, "were mainly related to patterns of drug use."
Narcotics Anonymous is a global, community-based organization that offers recovery from addiction through a twelve-step program. It is one of many options for individuals seeking freedom from addiction. Another alternative is counseling through Livengrin, located at 961 Marcon Boulevard in Allentown.