Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


July 20th, 2015

A growing number of obituaries of people who have died of heroin overdoses refer to their addiction, The New York Times reports. In the past, these obituaries tended to say a person died “unexpectedly” or “at home.”  Partnership for Drug-Free KidsMore Obituaries Refer to Addiction as Heroin Overdoses Increase”

26559211_sHeroin again! I have written blogs about painkiller and heroin addiction for the past year and the need in this country for more awareness. Now I applaud families who are opening up about their loved one’s addiction, particularly in obituaries. In the past, obituaries referred to overdose deaths as an “undisclosed” or “sudden” illness. Now families are candidly disclosing the cause of death as a drug addiction. Families are not trying to scare anyone. On the contrary, they are helping to promote awareness that just may save a life.
“This is part of a trend toward a greater degree of acceptance and destigmatization about issues pertaining to mental illness, including addiction,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Chairman of Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids article.

He added, “If a family chooses to do this, they can have a cathartic experience that facilitates the grieving process. When the person was alive, they may have been enabling, and they couldn’t acknowledge it. But this allows them to begin that process of coming to terms with the fallibility of the family member and their own limitations in not having been able to deal with it while the person was alive.”

I found a comment posted by “Charlie” to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids article said it best, “No one plans on being addicted. They think they are stronger than that. Heroin messes up how your brain processes things. It messes up your entire system. These are people that made a bad decision once or maybe twice and the addiction took hold of them.”

The news media is reminding us every day that we have a serious painkiller and heroin epidemic in this country. All teenagers will be exposed to drugs and alcohol at some point. Studies show that about 65 percent of teenagers try marijuana in high school, but for many children drug experimentation begins even earlier, in grade, middle or junior high school. Parents need to understand that alcohol and marijuana are gateway drugs. What I am concerned about is that there are still so many parents and teens that don’t understand the dangers. Teenagers are known for risky behavior. It is part of their development. Many teens don’t think about the cause and effect correlation of drugs and alcohol with the greater likelihood of becoming involved in criminal activity, suffering from suicidal tendencies, or facing other life-threatening dangers such as death from overdose.

We need to work together to do a better job at keeping our at-risk population safe from drug addiction. It really is a matter of life and death. For more information on addiction you can visit:



Why heroin is spreading in America’s suburbs — The drug has followed prescription painkillers into new neighborhoods, forcing police and parents to confront an unexpected problem. By Kristina Lindborg, March 2014, cover story.

Nice coalition.  Look for coalitions in your area.  Powertotheparent.org

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

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