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Monday, February 3, 2014

Motivational Mondays: What Preventable Plague Is Causing 1 in 4 Deaths in Our Society?

Thought for the Day: I came home from a great weekend in Boston last night, turned on the TV to hear about the Superbowl and instead learned that Philip Seymour Hoffman died. I was surprised to hear he died of an apparent drug overdose in his NYC apartment. He was found after a worried friend went to his apartment to check on him when he did not pick up his 3 children. I was 1st shocked and then saddened at the senseless death of one of the greatest actors of our century. I still am saddened; however, I am angry as well. Hoffman joins a ever lengthening list of actors, musicians, and artists (Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Corey Monteith, Amy Winehouse, John Belushi, Jimi Hendrix) who are dying from a preventable medical illness that is our era's greatest plague. I am angry that stories about these untimely deaths become sensational headlines, instead of stimulating action to treat and conquer the disease.
Since I work in the field, I don't need statistics to know the outrageous proportions of the illness' impact on our society, however, I looked some up in case you are not aware of them:
"Drug-related deaths have more than doubled since the early 1980s. There are more deaths, illness, and disabilities from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. Today, one in four deaths is attributable to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use."  (Source: Partnership for a Drug-Free America®, www.drugfree.org)
In case you don't realize this, alcohol is the #1 drug in the United States. Don't let the alcohol industry's advertising fool you into believing that it is not a dangerous drug. It is a depressant & does not make you happier or enhance your life. It destroys your body, but it is a slow killer. Many drug overdoses occur with a mix of alcohol and other drugs in the person's system. People make bad judgements while drinking including driving and using other drugs. Mr. Hoffman's drug of choice appears to have been heroine but all drugs can be lethal.

About 2 years ago, I received an e-mail from a woman. I'll call her Linda. She asked if I was the same Dr. Barbara Lavi who had been the Director of the Delphi Center in Burlington MA. She gave me her phone number and asked me to call her if I was the same therapist. Linda was surprised that I remembered her well, even though I had only seen her 2 or 3 times ten or fifteen years ago. Linda was a petite thin woman who had only been drinking for 8 or 9 years; however, because she was tiny, the alcohol was already destroying her body. A few days before I met her, Linda had blacked out while drinking. When she awoke she realized she was laying in a pool of blood. Somehow she crawled to a phone and called an ambulance. She was taken to an emergency room, After a 3 day hospitalization for Detox, she was referred to me for psychotherapy. 

After completing Linda's mental health evaluation, it was clear to me that she needed more than psychotherapy. I refused to work with her unless she went for an immediate evaluation for an inpatient hospitalization. After the intake procedure at the hospital, Linda was afraid she would lose her job if she went directly into the program. She asked me to see her for 1 or 2 sessions until she made arrangements for a medical leave from work. I agreed on the condition that she also attend AA meetings daily in the interim. I saw her until she was hospitalized. After the inpatient program she called and let me know she would be continuing with the program's outpatient services for aftercare. That was the last I heard from her until I got the e-mail.

When we spoke on the phone, she told me that she wanted to thank me for saving her life and that she wanted to send me a present. I told her she already had given me the greatest gift. She was clean and sober and alive.

If you are shocked, saddened, and angry, like me, by the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I propose that you can do something. It seems that Hoffman had appeared to have overcome his addiction when he was 22 years old, but relapsed about a year ago. Friends are saying they thought he had licked the problem, but my guess is there may have been some telltale signs that were noticed and ignored that he was in trouble again. When someone has an addiction, it never disappears. The addict, their friends, families and coworkers need to pay attention for any signs of a relapse.

Do you suspect that someone you love has a problem with drugs or alcohol? If you do, don't wait till they become another statistic. If you are not sure how to help, call a mental health clinic or hospital that specializes in drug and alcohol treatment. Ask for their assistance. They will help you set up an intervention. You could save their life. Feel free to comment or ask me questions about what else you can do. 

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