an interesting segment from the PBS NewsHour:

Apparently this Cory Monteith was kind of a big deal, star of a hit television show and what not. Also a drug addict.

And now dead.

His latest stint in rehab, by reports, was this April.

Vancouver Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said the actor had been dead for several hours when his body was discovered.

“Mr. Monteith was found deceased in his room at approximately noon today,” Lapointe said at a news conference late Saturday.

2013 in Memoriam: ‘Glee’ Star Cory Monteith Dead at 31

Acting Vancouver Police Chief Doug LePard said the evidence shows Monteith was last seen returning to his room alone late Friday night.

Although the cause of death is not yet known, police have ruled out foul play. Police said they believe he was alone when he died.

In 2008 we discussed the death of Heath Ledger and upon wondering if he was a drug addict it emerged that we weren’t supposed to discuss his addiction. I have to admit my first thought on hearing this news was…weariness. I wasn’t going to blog it. Luckily, I don’t have to, see the end of the post.

I am, however, very interested to see how much our popular consciousness has changed. Particularly since this poor guy had been open about his struggles with drug use. Is it now okay to start right in with the discussion of how his addiction to drugs led to this? Or at least to speculate? Maybe we will be okay discussing his possible affective disturbances (depression? anxiety? other?) that led to his substance use? Can we discuss this without stigma just like we might discuss Tony Soprano’s bad ticker and Angelina Jolie’s breast cancer risk factors?

I am curious.

In the mean while, there is a fantastic post up at the unlikely activist blog. It talks a little bit about why those of us scientists who are interested in topics of substance use and abuse do what we do.

Over the forthcoming days, the facts and events that led to Mr. Monteith’s death will be splashed over the pages of every newspaper in the land.

His story, however, is played out every day in small communities around this country. He is only one example of a victim of a disease that knows no bounds. The anonymous die every single day in this country because of their disease, and their plight must not be ignored.

Wealth cannot protect someone from an addiction. Neither can talent or beauty. Neither can fame.

And in many cases, even the love of family, friends and a partner cannot stop it.

And in many cases, even the best treatments we have cannot stop it.

The hope for people suffering from this disease is scientific research into the mechanisms, causes and targets of treatment for addiction. It’s why we must put as many resources as we can onto research that aims to stop the needless suffering and deaths of the famous and anonymous alike. We must combine the use of sophisticated brain imaging methods and genetic analyses in human subjects, with molecular and cellular studies in animals. It’s why we must give the victims of this illness the compassion and help they need, just like we do so for people with other preventable illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDS and diabetes.

Go read it.

UPDATE 07/16/13: The Coroner confirms Monteith’s death due to heroin and alcohol.