Casey Johnson + Diabetes + Alcohol + Drugs = Deadly Combination

Jan 14, 2010 | Stacy Matson | Celebrity Health
Casey Johnson + Diabetes + Alcohol + Drugs = Deadly Combination

image by: Matthew T Rader

Social drinking and recreational drug use are such a pervasive part of our society. Alcohol and drugs can have an immediate and negative effect on blood glucose levels. So what is a diabetic to do?

Seriously troubled socialite Casey Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson billions, was found dead in her L.A. home last week. She was 30 years old. Johnson had apparently been dead for several days before her body was discovered. Johnson was part of a new class of privileged “old money” kids who enjoyed private schools, trust funds and shopping by day and wild parties, drugs, and controversial friends by night (Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton).

She had a knack for attracting paparazzi -- and trouble. Johnson lived a scandalous life and exhibited serious signs of a woman whose life was spinning out of control. Just weeks before her death, Johnson’s behavior was described as erratic and manic. She was arrested for burglary and fought publicly with friends. She was known to be a heavy drug and alcohol user - Oxycontin, Klonopin, Valium, Xanax, cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy were her drugs of choice.

Because of Johnson’s recent behavior the family enacted a “tough love” approach, restricting all access to her trust fund and taking custody of her 2 1/2 year old daughter, Ava. Johnson’s final days were not happy; she lived in a rat infested home without running water or electricity and with garbage and rotten food strewn everywhere. She died alone.

Although there is no official cause of death yet, one possible factor is her long history of uncontrollable diabetes. Johnson was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes when she was 8 years old. As a child she gave herself insulin shots every day and often had to lie in bed for hours if her blood sugar was too high or too low. As an adult, (pre-drug use)she devoted her time to raising money and awareness for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and co-wrote a book with her parents called "Managing Your Child's Diabetes," in 1994.

A few years ago Johnson began using an insulin pump which replaces the need for periodic injections by delivering insulin to the body continuously throughout the day. For most diabetics, an insulin pump makes it possible to match your insulin needs to your lifestyle rather than adjusting your lifestyle to your body's response to insulin injections. With time, insulin pumps can help keep blood glucose levels within a target range 24 hours a day. But not for Johnson, who was reportedly rushed to the hospital three or four times in the last six months and had two specific incidents in the last year where she was taken to intensive care in a diabetic coma.

With the severity of her diabetes, Johnson should have been closely monitoring her health and blood sugar levels frequently regardless of the security of an insulin pump. According to the New York Post, “she was very sick and would often fail to monitor her insulin correctly.” Even more dangerous was the fact that Johnson’s diabetes had become “brittle” or “unstable”. This meant that the insulin was becoming less effective, and Johnson’s body was developing a tolerance to it making her more likely to slip into a diabetic coma.

Diabetes, drugs, and alcohol use doesn’t sound like a winning combination and the speculation is that Johnson came home after a night of partying and passed out without checking her blood glucose levels and likely fell into a coma and died in her sleep.

For a diabetic, alcohol and drugs can have an immediate and negative effect on blood glucose levels particularly if you drink or use on an empty stomach or right after taking insulin. Drugs and alcohol can affect a diabetic’s ability to detect or treat low blood glucose levels. Often diabetics who drink alcohol or use drugs say the feeling is similar to having a low blood glucose level (sleepiness, dizziness, and disorientation) making it very dangerous for the diabetic to detect a true episode. And because it takes two hours for just one ounce of alcohol to metabolize and leave your system, the risk for diabetics continues long after they’ve stopped drinking or using.

Social drinking and recreational drug use are such a pervasive part of our society. So what is a diabetic to do? According to one progressive doctor, Dr. Maggie Watkinson of Oxford Brookes University, “Young people with diabetes who experiment with recreational drugs should be taught how to control their condition while doing so".

She also warns that taking illegal drugs - especially amphetamine sulphate or "speed" - can have disastrous consequences for diabetics. Using speed could lead to coma as it increases the body's metabolic rate and rapidly decreases blood sugar levels. In diabetics, this can lead to a coma and, in extreme cases, death. Therefore, she continues, “information about how people with diabetes can remain as healthy as possible and control their diabetes while experimenting with recreational drugs should be available.” (Interesting Philosophy)

Diabetes increases your risk for many serious health problems. But, with proper treatment and a few lifestyle changes, many people with diabetes are able to prevent or delay the onset of very serious complications. The American Diabetes Association also offers a few tips for diabetics who choose to drink, “Drink only - when and if - blood glucose is under control because alcohol can cause hypoglycemia shortly after drinking and for 8-12 hours after drinking.

So, if you want to drink alcohol, check your blood glucose before you drink and eat either before or while you drink. You should also check your blood glucose before you go to bed to make sure it is at a safe level. If your blood glucose is low, eat something to raise it. Finally, wear an I.D. that notes you have diabetes and remember, if you drink, limit the quantity and most importantly, check your levels.

Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of the Best.

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