Lessons to learn from overdose - Albuquerque Journal

Lessons to learn from overdose

The news of Demi Lovato’s alleged heroin overdose came as a shock to her many fans and other celebrities around the world. It is well-known that she suffers from mental illness and substance abuse but had reportedly been in recovery – then she recently wrote a song about relapse in her substance abuse.

Although I have not treated Demi Lovato, her struggles with bipolar disorder were public knowledge. Generally speaking, co-morbid substance abuse is common with bipolar disorder, with patients turning to alcohol, cocaine and heroin. This can lead to nonresponse, noncompliance with treatment, relapse and difficulty achieving remission. Curing substance abuse isn’t possible until the bipolar disorder is properly treated.

With bipolar disorder in particular, one must grasp a few simple facts about the condition to help understand why substance abuse can happen. A bipolar patient suffers from periods of depression, mania and mixed states. Most patients spend two-thirds of their time in the depressive stage but ironically enough, typical antidepressants don’t work well for bipolar patients and are not FDA-approved to treat bipolar depression. This leaves many turning to recreational drugs like cocaine and heroin.

There are approximately 800,000 heroin addicts in America right now. Heroin binds with the opioid receptors of the brain, overflowing them with dopamine, one of the feel-good neurotransmitters, giving the patient an unbelievable high. This high or sense of euphoria is very short lived, lasting only a few minutes and then leaving the person feeling sleepy. Getting that high again requires taking more and more of the drug, which sadly leads to many overdoses. One can imagine bipolar patients in the depressed state look forward to these highs.

Demi Lovato is one of the lucky ones if she pulls through. Many heroin overdoses are fatal, and she is lucky she received the right emergency care as quickly as she did. This needs to serve as a teaching moment for everyone. There are three takeaways:

1. Patients and their families need to better understand bipolar disorder. Most patients with bipolar disorder are initially misdiagnosed. In fact, it can take up to 10 years to get the right diagnosis. This is a difficult psychiatric illness to treat because of the highs and lows experienced by the patient. There are currently only three FDA-approved medications – Latuda, Seroquel and Symbyax – but friends and loved ones need to be on the lookout for signs of alcohol and illicit drug use. Close and careful monitoring of the patient is a must even after remission is achieved.

2. Heroin is extremely dangerous and addictive. It doesn’t take much to get hooked. Overdoses are common and withdrawing brings about many unpleasant side effects. Avoiding heroin is a must for anyone, especially those with bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.

3. Anyone, despite fame, money or anything else, can struggle with mental illness, and we need to get rid of the stigma immediately. There are plenty of celebrities who have struggled with and recovered from bipolar disorder, substance abuse and other mental illness. Please understand that you are not alone and there should never be any guilt or shame in seeking professional treatment. The only way to get better is to get help. Sadly, it seems every time there is a celebrity story involving mental illness, the subject is brought into the limelight but quickly disappears. Mental health is something that must become part of the public conversation all the time.

Prakash Masand M.D. is a psychiatrist and the founder of the Centers of Psychiatric Excellence (COPE), copepsychiatry.com.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop


'Cherry on top': Actor Julio Macias 'excited to be ...
Like many others, Julio Macias is ... Like many others, Julio Macias is adjusting to a new version of life.Things have chang ...
Plant-based milks offer an array of viable alternatives
From the newspaper
Q: Doctor, there are several types ... Q: Doctor, there are several types of plant-based milks available. Which one should I be giving my 3 ...
When the core musculature is working optimally, there is ...
From the newspaper
Maintaining the ideal alignment from the ... Maintaining the ideal alignment from the neck to the shoulder blades, spine and pelvis when performi ...
Best Bond song ever? Louis Armstrong's 'We Have All ...
You have questions. I have some ... You have questions. I have some answers.Both the film and the song, performed by Louis ...
Prep football: This week's games to watch (Oct. 21-22)
Featured Sports
All listed games kick off at ... All listed games kick off at 7 p.m. Friday unless noted. 1. Rio Rancho (6-0, 2-0 in 1-6A) at Volcano Vista (5-3, 2-1), Nusenda ...
Combat sports notes: Lovato rewarded for her persistence
After at first not succeeding, Amanda ... After at first not succeeding, Amanda Lovato didn't merely try, try again.She tried, t ...
TOP OF MIND: Should the governor or legislators determine ...
From the newspaper
This week's question: The state Supreme ... This week's question: The state Supreme Court is being asked to settle an ongoing dispute between Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state lawmakers over ...
Back-to-work law for retired state workers could be eased
From the newspaper
NM counties, cities are struggling to ... NM counties, cities are struggling to fill positions during pandemic
ABQ stadium bond question is botched
ABQnews Seeker
Ballot correctly describes gross receipts tax ... Ballot correctly describes gross receipts tax issue, then mislabels it as GO bond