September 6, 2011

Alcohol and Drugs: Locked Up or Covered Up

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Paul King, MD

Parkwood Behavioral Health System, Olive Branch, Mississippi


The recent death of talented pop star Amy Winehouse is the latest celebrity tragedy directly attributable to alcohol and drugs. The last 5 years of her life were marked with show cancellations, arrests, hospital admissions, and “rehab.”

Winehouse won 5 Grammy awards in 2008, which included record and song of the year. Even with these achievements, she was a troubled young woman, with a history of depression and bulimia. Her award-winning song “Rehab” states:

“I didn’t get a lot in class
But I know it don’t come in a shot glass
They tried to make me go to rehab
But I said no, no, no”

Winehouse is the latest in a long string of substance-abusing rock stars who died too young. These include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison (The Doors), Keith Moon (The Who), Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), Dennis Wilson (Beach Boys), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Bon Scott (AC/DC), and of course Elvis Presley.

Winehouse’s death brings up the question of involuntary commitment.* She certainly was dangerous to herself. However, her father’s attempt to have her committed (or “sectioned”) was unsuccessful. Why does our profession appear to be so active in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder but show impotence in dealing with alcohol- and drug-abusing patients?

I know that achieving sobriety is a one-day-at-a-time process involving hard work and motivation. Twelve-Step programs have a fine record of helping people change their attitudes toward following a Higher Power and abandoning the false gods of drugs and alcohol.

“. . . I have set before you life and death,
blessings and curses. Now choose life,
So that you and your children may live . . .”
—Deuteronomy 30:19

*Please note that the commitment laws in England are not the focus for this discussion.

Financial Disclosure:Dr King had no relevant personal financial relationships to report.​

Category: Depression , Eating Disorders , Substance Use Disorder
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