Although Carrie Fisher was most commonly recognized for her iconic role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movie franchise, fans also knew her as an honest and open advocate for mental health and drug addiction treatment and recovery. Fisher struggled her entire life with drug and alcohol addiction, and her honesty has been credited with helping many people overcome addiction.
Tragically, Fisher died at just 60 years old in December 2016. Now, a toxicology report reveals she tested positive for cocaine, methadone, ethanol, and opiates at the time of her death. Doctors also believe that sleep apnea and heart disease played a role in her death.
Fisher’s Family Says Her Death Will Hopefully Encourage Others to Get Help
Like Fisher, her family has been honest about her drug use and the struggles she faced. Despite the many years of recovery and treatment, Fisher remained witty, sarcastic, and generally upbeat about life in general. In addition to her acting work, she was an accomplished novelist and screenwriter.
Perhaps most notably, however, Fisher is known for being a beacon of inspiration for those who struggle with mental health issues and co-occurring disorders. She advocated to end the stigma associated with mental illness. Fisher was open about her bipolar disorder, and in later years became famous for making appearances with her therapy dog, Gary Fisher, by her side.
Co-occurring disorders affect 7.9 million Americans, according to a 2014 study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). People with mental health challenges are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. SAMHSA states that this often makes it more difficult to treat co-occurring disorders, as sometimes people receive treatment for one disorder without getting much-needed treatment for the other.
Both mental health problems and substance abuse problems involve biological, psychological, and social components. Thus, it’s important to address both the addiction and the mental health disorder. Sadly, individuals with co-occurring disorders also have higher rates of incarceration, homelessness, medical problems, and even suicide.
Fisher’s daughter stated, “I know my Mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure.”
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