Singer Amy Winehouse Death Prompts Discussion about Addiction Relapse and Aftercare

Singer Amy Winehouse Death Prompts Discussion about Addiction Relapse and Aftercare

In a news story that evoked grief around the globe, musician Amy Winehouse died at her home in July 2011, the end of a long battle with drug and alcohol addictions. The story of her tragic death at age 27 is also turning millions of fans’ attention to the life-destroying grip of addiction, the reality that recovery may be marked with serious relapses, and the critical factor of aftercare in an addiction recovery program.

Caught in the Relapse Cycle

Winehouse’s addictions garnered worldwide attention for her brisk and defiant approach to recovery, portrayed in song lyrics like “they tried to make me go to rehab and I said no.” The song points to key issues surrounding addiction, including the reality that many people with alcohol addictions may repeat rehab attempts several times, followed by devastating relapses – despite the efforts of loved ones to help lead the person to drug rehab treatment.

Reports about Winehouse’s death have indicated that her parents tried several times to lead her to recovery, as did close friends. Fans of Amy Winehouse are also reported to have tried to intervene. Following the news of Winehouse’s death, parents are being urged across the globe to become more involved in making sure their children avoid drugs and alcohol.

In the U.S., research suggests that if teens experiment with drugs and alcohol before they reach the age of 18, they have a significantly higher risk of becoming addicted later in life. Experts hope similar statistics and the stories of lives lost to addiction will encourage parents not to view their children’s experimentation with drugs or alcohol as a “rite of passage” or just “kids being kids,” but rather a behavior with lifelong and devastating consequences.

The Importance of Aftercare

Another topic that is emerging from Amy Winehouse’s death is the subject of aftercare when a person has completed drug rehab. Winehouse is reported to have attended alcohol rehab in 2008, and again just months before her death, with her representatives saying they were monitoring her closely before determining if a European tour would be advisable.

Aftercare serves to connect the time in recovery with the return to the person’s normal life, and can be built upon daily or weekly checking in with counselors or accountability partners. With a focus on retaining new life skills, aftercare can be pivotal in avoiding a relapse when life stressors return. The months following rehab can be some of the hardest when a person is battling an addiction, and aftercare can include a combination of group meetings, individual meetings and continuing education for several weeks following the exit from a drug rehab center.

Reef Karim, director of California’s Control Center for Addiction, says several young celebrities have had their lives cut short due to addiction. Karim says this can be linked to touring too soon following a relapse, or being urged out of drug rehab and into performing before recovery seems to have been solidified.

Dr. Georgina Smith of a Malibu addiction recovery program agrees, and adds that there is a serious commitment to aftercare involved in recovery. This commitment may necessitate serious lifestyle change on multiple levels.

Smith and other addiction experts also send out the stark message that addiction rehabilitation is not grounds for pop song lyrics, but rather a serious and critical path for people with addictions to regain their health and sustain their lives.

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