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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Life Lost to Addiction is No Longer a Secret

It is a sad state of affairs when the insidious nature of addiction comes to light more often in obituaries than anywhere else. Prescription opioid, and now heroin, addiction is making headlines all the time, as experts and lawmakers grapple with the problem and what can be done. In the meantime, people continue to lose their lives at an unprecedented rate, and the cries of loss can be heard in the obituary pages across the country.

In the past when people lost their life due to addiction, obituary pages rarely would reflect the true cause of death. This was mainly a result of the stigma directed towards the disease of addiction and other mental illness. In an effort to reach out to those still suffering and have some sense of closure in their own lives, the loved one of lost addicts are writing openly about their long battle with the disease on the obit page, The New York Times reports.

“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. “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.” 

Candid obituaries about lives lost to addiction have the potential to reach addicts still out there. Addicts are often unable to see how their disease affects others, such as friends and family. It is almost as if the drugs blind one from understanding that addiction affects the entire family. Reading about what other families are going through after an overdose death may push addicts towards treatment and recovery.

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