Farewell To Robin Williams

August 18, 2014

Once again we are faced with another celebrity’s untimely tragic death. Robin Williams’ suicide at the age of 63 last weekend reminds us of the tragic consequences of the double difficulty between depression and substance abuse. Mr. Williams’ long history of addiction is well chronicled; he had 20 years of sobriety from alcohol and cocaine and it was reported that he checked himself into a rehab earlier this year. According to his publicist he was sober at the time but needed a ‘refresher’ which illustrates how powerful addiction can be as well as the fact that fighting addiction is a lifelong battle.

It has been known that Mr. Williams also dealt with depression (possibly bipolar disorder although he always denied this).



Nevertheless his depression was a factor in his life and it is a clinical fact that many depressed individuals self-medicate with substances most notably and frequently with alcohol and cocaine. Many substance abusers have a history of depression which predates their substance abuse and thus get caught in the trap of self-medication rather than seek treatment for the depressive disorder. Some others become depressed as a result of their substance abuse. It is not clear to me which category Mr. Williams falls in, however, he did recognize the issue in the early 1990’s.

Many creative and talented individuals struggle with substance abuse. The demands of performing and being ‘on’ can be overwhelming and are often relieved with alcohol and other drugs. The entertainment world has an overwhelming number of examples of untimely deaths due to either suicide or substance abuse. Just earlier this year Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of an overdose of heroin. It was reported yesterday by Mr. Williams’ wife that he had Parkinson’s disease which affects the dopamine levels in the brain and can increase one’s depressive mood. Dopamine is the brain chemical associated with pleasure and perhaps Mr. Williams saw no way out of his depression and unfortunately ended his life.

I will certainly miss him and the world is surely less funny without him.