Following “Glee” star Cory Monteith’s death from a mixture of heroin and alcohol, there's renewed interest in how drug dependent individuals should re-enter society after completing treatment programs.
Monteith, who is from Canada, had struggled with substance abuse since his early teens, and had completed a drug rehab program in April. Since then he was widely photographed with his girlfriend, actress Lea Michele, at public events and on vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He died in Vancouver.
The circumstances surrounding his death are seen by some addiction experts as evidence that he needed follow-up care and monitoring.
Dr. Ravi Chandiramani, medical director at Journey Healing Centers, in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Salt Lake City, said the treatment centers with the greatest records of success are those that take a holistic approach that includes a clear focus on follow-up care.
He also suggests that individuals should seek facilities that are fully accredited and that routinely include guidance in aftercare.
“We first recommend a good percent of the time that people must leave their home environment to seek treatment, because it may be the environment that contributed to their disease,” said Chandiramani.
“But as important as the treatment itself is, there must be a strong relapse prevention program and good aftercare planning during the time the individual is getting grounded in their sobriety. In Cory’s case there was probably not adequate time away from the environment that fostered his addiction. That could mean he simply did not have the required expertise with the tools he needed to recover.”
Monteith, 31, who had previously been through treatment for drug abuse when he was 19, completed the most recent stint on April 28. He then immediately left for the Mexican vacation with Michele.
The lack of follow-up care and monitoring may have contributed to Monteith’s death, but some experts lay the blame squarely at the doorway of the treatment facilities.
While it is not known what facility Monteith used, Dr. Carl Hart, author of “High Price: A Neuroscientists Journey of Self-Discovery that Challenges Everything You Know about Drugs and Society,” said simple ignorance may have played a part in Monteith’s death.
“He didn’t die because he was using heroin,” said Hart, a professor of psychology at Columbia University and substance abuse research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, as well as a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug abuse.
“He died because he combined it with alcohol. In treatment programs, people sometimes do not get the proper education. The 28-day approach to drug rehab is ignorant because when people are addicted to drugs they have problems, but we act as though the drug is their problem. There are problems in their life in general, even without that drug, but often in treatment professionals act as if the drug is the whole problem.”
Monteith’s drug use reportedly began after his parents divorced. When he became a public figure, he was open about his ongoing struggle with drugs. While his family, girlfriend and colleagues are all reported to have been fully supportive of his efforts to recover, Chandiramani believes that those who comprised his support system needed to be involved in his treatment and recovery.
“The ideal would be to have had those family members integrated into the treatment process,” he said. “They typically are given fundamental education on the disease of addiction, along with information on relapse prevention."
"Individuals in the spotlight like Cory find themselves overcompensating when they leave treatment so they don’t lose their fame, credibility or opportunity for additional success. That puts more pressure on them, and often they don’t get the foundation of recovery that they need to build on before they jump head first right back into their previous environment.”