How Heroin and Alcohol Killed Cory Monteith
The combination of heroin and alcohol is currently a hot news topic with the recent accidental death of actor and Glee cast member Cory Monteith.
Saturday, July 6 the Vancouver police said in a news conference Saturday evening that Cory Monteith was found at noon on the hotel’s 21st floor. He had checked into the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel and had been expected to check out Saturday. When Monteith missed his checkout time at noon, hotel staff went to his room and found him, deceased.
Monteith told Parade magazine in 2011 that he was “out of control” as a teen. He revealed that at age 13, he drank, smoked pot and skipped school in Victoria, British Columbia, after his parents divorced. By 16, his drug use had escalated. He was “doing anything and everything, as much as possible.” At 19, he entered rehab for the first time.
On March 31, 2013, the media announced that Monteith had admitted himself into a treatment facility for substance addiction. His treatment was completed on April 26, 2013.
Autopsy and Findings
An autopsy was completed by the British Columbia Coroners Service on July 15. The autopsy report stated that Monteith died from “a mixed drug toxicity” consisting of heroin and alcohol, and that his death appeared to have been accidental.
Heroin and Alcohol: a Deadly Combination
The drugs of abuse may give the user a feeling of pleasure, but it is important to remember that they are toxic substances. The vast majority of drug overdose cases involve the use of more than one drug. In 2003 the Drug Abuse Warning Network reported an average of 2.7 drugs in fatal overdose cases. Importantly in these cases, no single drug is usually present at a lethal dose. Rather it is the synergistic effect (think: 1+1=3) of the combining of drugs that is lethal. For example, a combination of heroin and alcohol can be especially dangerous. Heroin and alcohol both suppress breathing, but by different mechanisms.
Heroin is the cause for more deaths by overdose than any other single drug. The majority of these deaths ultimately result from respiratory failure. A toxic dose of heroin increases the inhibitory effect of GABA, which causes breathing to slow and eventually stop.
Alcohol overdoses occur predominantly in two ways. First, a high intake of alcohol causes unconsciousness. At high levels, it can also cause breathing to slow or cease. Second, the body tries to rid itself of unabsorbed alcohol by emptying the stomach. If a person vomits while they are unconscious, they may inhale the vomit and compromise their breathing or even drown.
Heroin and alcohol together is especially dangerous, experts say, because alcohol can exaggerate heroin’s effect on the central nervous system.
How Heroin and Alcohol Killed Cory Montieth
As with other cases where heroin and alcohol were involved, Cory’s death was likely an overdose of either alcohol, heroin or both, resulting in coma, brain damage and eventually death. Even if he had not taken a lethal amount of heroin, it proved to be deadly when he combined it with alcohol.
Drugs that depress that central nervous system slow the heartbeat, or in large enough doses, can stop it from beating entirely. Without oxygen-rich blood pumping to the body, brain cells become depleted and can die within minutes.
Heroin, a highly addictive opiate drug, is considered a depressant because of its effects sedating the central nervous system. Alcohol also functions as a depressant.
Combining these two depressants forms a deadly drug combination.