THE BLOG

Robin Williams: Drugs, Depression and Laughter

08/13/2014 11:23 am ET | Updated Oct 13, 2014

We often describe suicide as a "long-term solution to a short-term problem."

And if reports about the uber talented Robin Williams are true, then he ultimately passed looking for a long-term solution to a long-term problem. That long-term problem is called a "co-occurring disorder" or "dual diagnosis" and it can take away even the most talented, sensitive and admired people in our world.

The combination of having a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder is very challenging. You can't treat one without treating the other. You can't forget one or you'll impact the other. They go hand in hand.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 21 percent of Americans suffer from a psychiatric disorder and of these, 15 percent also meet criteria for a substance use disorder. You may have anxiety or depression and use substances to cope or you may have an addiction and develop mood or stress related symptoms as a result. Many of these people are getting treatment for one but not really focusing on the other.

Depression is a mental health condition where our neurochemistry is altered in our brains. It is treatable but when it's at a severe stage, it's debilitating. It renders someone ineffective in life.

Many of my patients can't get out of bed. They can't interact with people; they isolate, they cry, they can't concentrate or focus, they can't find pleasure in anything, they can't sleep or sleep too much, they self medicate with alcohol, pills or illicit drugs to deal with life and some look for a way out. And sometimes, they may be seeking a permanent way out.

The CDC reports that more than 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression.

Addiction treatment is frankly ineffective if it doesn't address one's mental health vulnerabilities. Good treatment requires a multi-disciplinary approach involving psychiatric treatment, addiction treatment, holistic medicine, spiritual health, psychotherapy and nutrition. And there's new technology and medical trials that look promising for trans cranial magnetic stimulation and ketamine administration for treatment resistant depression.

Personally, I was deeply effected by Robin Williams passing. I grew up with him. He was a part of my childhood and adult life. I, like may others, will really miss his spirit and his talent. He made me laugh and helped me realize the power of comedy and laughter in my personal and professional life.

I truly believe that "Laughter is the best medicine."

And our world just lost some really good medicine.