Glee star Cory Monteith and the disease of addiction - FOX 13 News

Glee star Cory Monteith and the disease of addiction

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At times, the Glee character Finn Hudson seemed to have it all. Popular and talented, we would watch him struggle with career, relationships, and just wanting to fit in.

In real life, Cory Monteith also struggled, fighting a heroin addiction.

It's a struggle he lost, shocking and saddening fans around the world.

He joins a list of celebrities who have lost their lives to addiction, including rock and roll legend Elvis Presley. Dr. Raymond Harbison is a University of South Florida professor who was part of Presley's autopsy team in 1977.

"When we evaluated [Presley's] death, he had more than a dozen drugs in his blood," Harbison said. "There were three of us involved. I actually had some police protection for a while."

Over three and a half decades, Harbison learned, famous or not, addiction doesn't discriminate, and the consequences are enormous.

"In the United States, we are five percent of the world's population, and we consume 60 percent of the illicit drugs -- so it is a significant issue in regard to the consequences," he said.

Taking ten bags of heroin a day

Back in the 80s, David Burks was a promising young artist. He left Florida when he got on a fast track into an elite New York City art school. At the time, he felt overwhelmed and insecure.

"It was easy to wake up in the morning and go down to the corner store, and get a bag of heroin, just like you'd get a cup of coffee," David said, recalling his years of drug addiction. "It worked so well for me. I felt so comfortable and at ease in my own skin for the very first time in my time, so I started to do it more and more frequently."

At one point, David was taking ten bags a day. He began stealing to buy drugs, lying to friends, family, and mostly to himself.

"That's one of the cunning and baffling parts of addiction, is that your own mind will lie to you and you'll believe it," he recalls.

David was in and out of jail.

"Usually for me I would sober up and I'd be in jail, and I would always swear I would never do it again. Usually within the first couple of hours after I walked out of jail, I had a beer, a joint, or a pill in my system," he said.

After his final arrest, he faced five years in prison. Instead, he chose rehab.

"I had no intentions of quitting. I was resigned to fact that I was probably going to die a drug addict," he said.

Finding hope

David sought treatment at Operation PAR, an organization that focuses on helping people with substance abuse histories. While in rehab, something clicked for him.

With time and considerable effort, David managed to overcome the hardest parts of his addiction. He went back to school, got his graduate degree, and now counsels addicts with their own struggles to stay clean.

"If I can do this, I believe that anyone can...there is hope," David says.

Hope for others to avoid a fate much like that of Cory Monteith.

"There is hope. There are millions of people who have recovered from alcoholism and addiction," David says.

"[Monteith] suffered the ultimate consequence, and it's not just him that suffers because of it. I think that's something addicts need to remember too: addiction affects every person you come in contact with. It's a selfish disease."



For more information about addiction, and where to seek help:

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