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Health Watch: Battling Addiction

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Whitney Houston had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more with that part of our coverage.

The 48-year-old singer had reportedly been in and out of rehab. Experts we talked to in Philadelphia say addiction is an extremely tough battle.

On Thursday night, friends say Whitney Houston was drinking champagne. And earlier in the week, preparing for the Grammy’s, she was reportedly disheveled and smelled of alcohol.

“Once you get caught up in that it’s hell. It’s pure hell,” said Frank Mount, who abused alcohol and drugs for decades. Like Whitney Houston, he stopped and started repeatedly, and had several scary episodes of overdosing.

“My last rehab was 1986. My first was 1974. I’ve been clean and sober for 25 years,” said Frank. Now he’s a supervisor at Gaudenzia, a drug and alcohol mental health agency, where they have both in and out patient rehab services.

“You really have to stay in touch with your support system ya know every day,” said Frank.

He says addicts like him, and Whitney Houston, can’t have just one drink.

“We have a fatal disease, and we’ve got to keep it in check, and there’s a way of doing it,” said Frank. He says the commitment to stay sober is difficult, hard work that needs to be constantly reinforced. He says it appears Houston couldn’t overcome the demons of addiction, but there are millions who have.

“People do recover, and people do bounce back. And they do become productive members of society,” said Frank.

Right now we don’t have a lot of official information specifically if drugs had anything to do with Whitney Houston’s death.


Gaudenzia Rehab Information –

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  • Beth Burgess

    Addiction must be one of the strangest illnesses to comprehend. It tells you you haven’t got it and then when you realise you do have it you are too ashamed of having it to ask for help. And then, despite all your best efforts at stopping, you relapse. I had a mega relapse before I finally got to grips with it and am happy now, healthy and sober. The key for me was to change my thinking. there is no point in stopping without working on yourself.
    Beth Burgess
    Addiction Recovery Coach
    Sort My Life Solutions

  • Zzbar

    Will W. H. death stop this silly-mess with drugs and alcohol. (NO).

  • Lisa Frederiksen -

    Whitney Houston’s story is a reminder of the power of the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction. It also points to the importance of developing a solid “Continuing Care Plan” to follow the acute detox/rehab treatment period in order to help reduce the stress that leads to relapse. There is the perception that after a 28-day residential and/or intensive care treatment program, for example, “all is well” and life can go back to “normal.” What is missing is the understanding that addiction, like other diseases, requires continuing care. According to the ASAM’s 2009 Principles of Addiction Medicine Fourth Edition, “…effective treatment attends to multiple needs of each individual, not just his or her alcohol or drug use. To be effective, treatment must address any associated medical, psychologic, social, vocational, legal problem, and environmental problems” (ASAM, Principles…, p. 389). Additionally, the Principles cites one of the key components of “the best treatment programs” is “continuing care” (ASAM, Principles…, p. 351).
    Because addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease, there is no way all aspects of healing the brain can be completed in 10, 28 or even 60 days. Yes, a great start can be made, but a continuing care (a.k.a. an after care) plan that extends “treatment” for at least a full year is critical. The addict/alcoholic’s embedded addiction-related neural networks will be triggered by any number of cues – sound, sight, memory, the smell of alcohol, an emotion, a stressful person or situation. Therefore, planning how to prevent and/or handle such cues is critical. Let’s face it, treatment for a heart disease patient or diabetic doesn’t stop after the person is stabilized, nor is it assumed a patient’s diabetes or heart disease goes away after the rehabilitation effort. Instead, those patients are counseled, provided education and behavioral modification strategies, and then they are given a continuing care plan and follow-up with further modifications, if necessary. This same approach must be used with treating addiction. For as you can imagine by now, healing, developing and changing neural networks takes time.
    To be effective a Continuing Care Plan needs include a specific strategy that outlines how the drug addict/alcoholic is going to maintain abstinence. They must go far beyond the “typical” drug testing and 12-step meeting attendance monitoring. They must include plans for how to integrate with the family; for how to deal with the fall-out of not dealing with “life” while in their addiction (e.g., credit destruction, parenting issues, relationships problems, foreclosure, lost jobs, lost friendships — the “life” situations than can trigger a person who is in early recovery (day 29, 30, 45 or 72, for example); for identifying strategies to handle relapse (stress) triggers; for how they will deal with underlying issues (typically related to the risk factors for developing the disease – mental illness, childhood trauma, to name two); for what the family needs in order to help themselves and in that process, help their loved one. Just as a person with diabetes, heart disease or cancer has a continuing care program/plan to help them continue their recovery once the acute care treatment (e.g., surgery, radiation, chemo) is complete, so too must the alcoholic / addict AND the family member/friend.

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