By Tracy Roche, Prevention Consultant at Alcohol & Drug Services

As many may know, Glee actor Cory Monteith, passed away this weekend from a suspected overdose. Social media was flooded with sympathy, beautiful thoughts, and prayers for friends and family. There were also insensitive comments like, “if it was a drug overdose, he only did it to himself.”

Responses such as this date back to the time when we thought addiction was due to a lack of willpower or a moral defect. Now, science is teaching us that addiction is a brain disease. Its “symptoms” shown through behavior.

The earlier teens start to experiment, the more likely they are to have problems later in life. Monteith started using drugs at age 13 and entered rehab for the first time at 19. He was open and honest about his past struggles with addiction. By all accounts, Cory was committed to his career, loved ones, and living drug free. Recently, he successfully completed another round of drug treatment. No one saw this coming.

Drug overdoses are the number one cause of injury death in the US. In fact, more people die from drug overdoses than car crashes. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, drug misuse and abuse caused around 2.5 million emergency department visits in 2011. More than 1.4 million involved prescription medicines. This, my friend, is an epidemic.

It’s time to wake up, start talking, and stop blaming. Would you walk up to someone with diabetes or heart disease and say, “You asked for it”? So what if they ate a Twinkie or steak at some point? Many of us do. Let’s stop looking at addiction as though people chose that path. Instead, encourage them to take responsibility for recovery; help them forge a new road. And when we hear about tragedies such as accidental overdoses, show empathy and kindness toward the loved ones left behind.

For more information on the dangers of prescription drugs, please visit: and help us change the conversation about misuse and abuse.