Sep 16, 2013

Amy Winehouse Died Of Bulimia, Not Drug Abuse

Newsflash: Amy Winehouse’s brother says that bulimia killed Amy, not drugs.

Alex Winehouse recognizes that his sister was on a path to death, but that it was ultimately years of her eating disorder behaviors that rendered her body too weak to continue functioning.

Bulimia symptoms and behaviors started in Amy’s teen years and did not subside, probably because she was never treated for the illness. She was also never treated well for substance abuse. 

Co-occuring disorders

With this news from Alex, we now know that Amy Winehouse could have been dually-diagnosed. In other words, Amy had co-occurring disorders: an addiction and an eating disorder.

When left untreated, just one mental illness or disorder is detrimental to the life of the sufferer. When two illnesses are happening at the same time, it is certainly harder to diagnose and treat. If you are abusing a drug that alters your brain chemistry, and therefore how you view the world, and subsequently act, it is really hard to tell if symptoms of a mental illness are from the drug use, or if they are a separate issue.

There are numerous treatment centers that treat co-occurring disorders during the same rehab stint. For someone like Amy, a focus on bulimia and on alcohol and drug abuse could have given her the opportunity to get change. People who have felt uncomfortable in their own lives, and in their own bodies, often turn to alcohol, cocaine, prescription pills, heroin, or whatever else to feel differently or to escape from your discomfort. When the drug use stops, and you are left with a life on pause, you want to immediately go back to the feeling the drug gave you.

Unenjoyable reality

Reality for these people is not enjoyable without substances. Cocaine, for example, can seem to help someone who has an eating disorder. In Amy’s case, the appetite suppressing power of cocaine may have been just what she was looking for: a way to eat less and maintain a smaller body weight.

The cocaine is masking the eating disorder symptoms, but below the surface, and when the person is not using, the symptoms come right back, sometimes even more intensely.

Amy Winehouse could have spent some time in rehab and healed the issues that lead to bulimia and substance abuse. She could have gotten better. Maybe her dad should have stepped in with more force to get his daughter the help she desperately needed.

Club 27

People loved her music. She definitely made her mark on the industry, and could have realized a sustainable creative career, but instead she joins the 27 Club (famous people who have died at age 27) whether it’s because of bulimia or substance abuse.

Sadly we will never know because she said no, no, no to rehab. It doesn’t make a difference what actually took her life because a young, talented woman is gone.

With dual diagnosis treatment, Amy could still be singing but with how she said yes, yes, yes to rehab and what adventures she can now experience without drugs and alcohol.

Kate Green is a quality improvement manager at Balboa Horizons Treatment Services that helps those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.

Image Credit: 1, 2.

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