When it was announced that Glee star Cory Monteith had been found dead in a Vancouver hotel, fans around the world went into mourning, but Monteith’s death at just 31 has also provoked angry reactions that we are not doing enough to help people suffering from substance addictions.
Glee Actor’s Death Deemed a “Most Tragic Accident”
Monteith was found dead by staff at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel on Saturday after the actor failed to check out of his room. A police statement was swiftly issued that, though unable to reveal the precise cause of death, made it known the police suspected no foul play had been involved.
Rumors soon began circulating that drugs were a likely cause of Monteith’s death, as Monteith had only just completed a stint in rehab after voluntarily and with the support of his girlfriend, fellow Glee actor Lea Michele, seeking help in late March of this year for an alcohol and drug addiction — this a relapse of previous addiction problems that had plagued the actor as a teenager.
Those assumptions were proved correct this week when the British Columbia Coroners service issued the following statement regarding Monteith’s death:
Post-mortem testing, which included an autopsy and toxicological analysis, found that Mr. Monteith, aged 31, died of a mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol. It should be noted that at this point there is no evidence to suggest Mr. Monteith’s death was anything other than a most-tragic accident.
Vancouver police have now said there is no compelling reason to continue an investigation into Monteith’s death, though there are conflicting opinions as to whether it would be viable to launch a probe into finding who Monteith’s supplier was.
Meanwhile, gleeks around the world continue to mourn, with a deluge of tributes from his co-stars including a very fitting impromptu song dedication from co-star Matthew Morrison, open displays of mourning at the hotel where Monteith died and a London Glee convention being turned into a kind of support group for devastated fans.
However, with the news having now had time to settle and the media meat grinder wanting to make the most out of this story, reports are starting to take on a different tone.
The least of them, NPR, has seen fit to remind us that Cory Monteith was not his Glee character Finn Hudson, the all American jock who evolved into a soulful and dependable small town guy, and though that fact may feel a little raw, it is worth the sting.
Monteith, by many everyday standards, had a tough adolescence. At just the age of 13, he had begun abusing drugs, by 16 he had left school and by 19, following an intervention from his friends and family, entered a drug rehabilitation center.
These details are widely available, Monteith had talked openly about his troubled past and are non-too lurid given the context of how Monteith died.
Yet few have dared actually talk about the true issue here: that heroin use is rising in popularity and that society at large is systematically failing to engage on the drug addiction issue.
There are some notable exceptions, however.
An NBC News article titled “Glee’ star’s OD shows the new, fresh face of heroin” hits the eye hard and pulls no punches in the copy either:
“I deal with drug users every day,” Dr. Richard Clark, an emergency room physician and director of toxicology at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, told NBC News. “The stereotypical user on the street? That’s the past as far as heroin use in the U.S. is concerned. Lots of people are using it these days – kids, teenagers, white-collar workers.”
Every one of these deaths is tragic. They died of a disease that lies to them. Great talent and intelligence do not protect us from any illness.
We can safely watch such a tragedy, gawking as we drive by the destruction, insulated from the suffering and unable to help. But addiction is all around us and we need to respond to the rising death toll.
It is true that many in the medical community already class addiction as a disease, though it is also true that there may be compelling reasons to differentiate it as “disease-like,” but not truly fitting the disease model.
Next Page: The false choice of tough love versus enabling drug abuse.
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