Substance abuse is an issue that faces millions of Americans and doctors are commending Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, for opening up about the issue. Her YouTube video is shedding light on the illness and could help others. Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Dr. Mitch Rosenthal calls Chiara de Blasio's admission a Christmas gift to the millions of Americans struggling with depression and substance abuse.
"To have someone come forward with such courage and talk about their depression and their substance abuse is very helpful because it's a big, hopeful sign that recovery is possible," said Rosenthal.
Rosenthal founded Phoenix House, the largest drug rehabilitation program in America.
He says one in five families will have a drug or alcohol abuse problem in their family at some point. It's an illness that overwhelmingly affects young people.
The majority of Phoenix House clients are young adults and adolescents, like Chiara.
“When I went away to college I didn’t really do the proper mental and emotional work to prepare myself. I kind of just thought that all my problems would go away,” Chiara said in the online video posted on Tuesday.
Some are having a hard time adjusting to life changes, such as college, and can easily slip into substance abuse.
"Adolescence is normally a very turbulent time. It's a time where people are trying to firm up their identity, they’re trying to separate from parents, they’re trying to clarify and often there are very difficult issues for them,” said Rosenthal.
Studies also show that mental health issues such as depression, which Chiara has admitted to struggling with, go hand in hand with substance abuse, with users "self medicating" to change their feelings, something Doctor Rosenthal warns can become a vicious and dangerous cycle.
"Once people try and adjust their moods and the way they feel with drugs or alcohol, they intermix, so the switch from alcohol to marijuana, marijuana to other drugs is very common,"
According to a 2009 report by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 175,000 adolescent New Yorkers used an illicit drug and about 130,000 abused or were
dependent on alcohol or drugs in the past year.
Rosenthal says to combat the problem, organizations like his need support from legislators.
He believes Chiara’s admission is a sign that the mayor-elect will be supportive.