Robin Williams's death spotlights issues of depression, addiction

Aug 13, 2014

With the tragic news that actor and comedian Robin Williams committed suicide, experts are weighing in to offer advice for people suffering with alcohol and drug addictions and depression. WBFO's Eileen Buckley talked with one expert from the University at Buffalo.

"Sometimes people are born with a loaded gun, and then events in their life might pull the trigger," says Dr. Richard Blondell, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UB who specializes in addiction. 

Robin Williams's suicide is drawing attention to the issues of depression and addiction.
Credit Alexey2244/Wikimedia Commons

Blondell says people who suffer from alcohol and drug addictions are at a greater risk for depression and suicide. It was well known that Williams struggled with both addictions in the past.

"We know that most of the time, it's the alcohol and drug use that cause depression, about 90% of the time. Only about 10% is the other way around," Blondell says.

Blondell notes that genetics can leave some predisposed to addiction and may cause mood disorders.

"We think that these two conditions are linked, somehow, genetically, although that's not well understood," he says. "It is a life-long disease. It's a chronic brain disease."

Blondell says stopping some addicts from using drugs and alcohol should,for the  most part, end mood disorders. But he says the mistake is made when patients are allowed to continue to using a drug, like an antidepressant, that could spur a suicide.

Anyone who is depressed and contemplating suicide is strongly urged to call Crisis Services' 24-Hour Hotline at 716-834-3131.