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Drug Abuse and Alcoholism: Painting the Face of Addiction


(UPDATE July 16, 2013: Cory Monteith’s official cause of death was a drug overdose of heroin and alcohol, according to the British Columbia Coroners Service.)


Cory Monteith, one of the stars of the Emmy award-winning musical comedy-drama Glee, was found dead in his Vancouver hotel room over the weekend.

Some news sources have reported drug overdose as the suspected cause of death, but thus far police have confirmed only that they don’t believe foul play was involved.

An autopsy is scheduled for today (Monday, July 15, 2013), after which the coroner will be closer to establishing an official cause of death.

(UPDATE: Us Weekly reports the autopsy and toxicology reports will not be ready today; USA Today reports police have put the toxicology and autopsy reports on the fast track.)

Probably one reason sources are reporting a drug overdose is Monteith’s ongoing battle with substance abuse. The 31-year-old actor was frank about his struggles with addiction, and once told Parade he was skipping school to get drunk and smoke pot at 11 years old, was using “anything and everything” by the time he was 16, and at 19 finally checked in to rehab.

Most recently, Monteith checked himself into a drug addiction treatment facility back in March 2013.

So, it’s not surprising that people might speculate Monteith died from an overdose.

Shock, Confusion, Revenge: 7 Tips for Dealing With Sudden Death

What is (a little) surprising is that some sources are surprised that a happy, healthy-looking kid actually could have been addicted to drugs, much less died from that addiction.

Honestly, it didn’t occur to me until Thought Catalog’s Ryan O’Connell took to the soapbox this morning. During his “This Is What Addiction Looks Like” piece, O’Connell claims his blood boiled when “TMZ ran some garbage the other day that said something like, ‘OMG, what a shock! Here’s a picture of Cory Monteith looking happy and healthy just a few weeks before he died. How could it be?!'”

This made my blood boil because, despite all the information that’s out there about addiction, people still have this image of addicts being complete train wrecks, whizzing through life barefoot, disheveled and insane when, in fact, it’s often the opposite. Addiction can look like anything. It can look happy and healthy and productive and loving and kind and a hard worker. That’s what so chilling about the disease. You never really know who has it. You could know someone for years and not realize that they were alcoholics or pill heads. Addiction can be insidious, it can kill your soul before it kills anything else and no one can really see a soul that’s withering away.

Sure, sometimes you can look at someone and see signs that suggest alcoholism or drug addiction; physical signs like extreme weight loss, bloodshot eyes, and needle tracks, and lifestyle signs like job loss, changes in friends and hangouts, and criminal behavior. You can look at “before” and “after” pictures and see how alcohol and drug abuse has changed a person.

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However, you don’t always know what’s going on behind closed doors–especially the doors of someone you only occasionally see (or see on television and paparazzi pictures).

There’s more to the article, too; O’Connell goes on to address our society’s audacity to be fascinated with train wrecks one day and surprised by their deaths the next.

Don’t be shocked. Don’t be shocked when drug addicts die because they do all the time. Don’t be shocked when Lindsay Lohan ends up dead in a hotel room because she will if she doesn’t stop chasing fame and actually get serious about sobriety. And I think it’s hypocritical of us to sit here and express sadness when we all laughed at videos of these celebrities passed out drunk in cars and stumbling all over Hollywood Boulevard. This wasn’t a joke. This was their disease and, like Cory Monteith, it will kill them if they don’t recover. It always does.

I highly recommend heading over to Thought Catalog and checking out the article.

In the meantime, have you ever painted the face of addiction? Have you ever assumed someone was or was not struggling with drug abuse based on his or her appearance? Have you ever been surprised to find out someone you thought was clean and sober was actually an addict?

Image Credit: Greg Hernandez

Drug Abuse and Alcoholism: Painting the Face of Addiction

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind, Unleash Your Creativity, and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2013). Drug Abuse and Alcoholism: Painting the Face of Addiction. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Jul 2013
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