If Marilyn Had Lived...

Trish Vradenburg Health Guide January 29, 2013
  • Marilyn Monroe had beauty, fame, riches, and men. But, in the end, she had nothing.

    Marilyn never knew her father (though for a while she pretended he was Clark Gable), had a mother who was in and out of mental institutions, was tossed around from foster home to foster home, and was sexually abused by the age of 11.  Plagued by her lack of self-confidence and ultimate distrust, she was never able to have a healthy relationship with a man.  The experience of her youth set in motion her insecurities in life which she was never able to overcome.

    Marilyn’s life has been described by some as “a dark pit of despair.”  She was dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs.  In 1961 she was admitted to the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic, which she considered a nightmare.  After she called Joe DiMaggio for help, he had her transferred to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital where she underwent various surgical procedures.

     

    Marilyn in "The Prince and the Showgirl," 1957

     

    Unable to remember lines, totally unreliable, and often falling into deep despair and paranoia, Marilyn increasingly turned to booze and drugs.  In August of 1962, her psychiatrist Ralph Greeson, who had prescribed so many of the drugs she used, found Marilyn Monroe dead in her Brentwood home.  The coroner determined her was due to “acute barbiturate poisoning” leading to a probable suicide.

    But what if she had lived?

    In 2010, Buddy T., an About.com Guide, reported that scientists at the University of Edinburgh had studied the brains of 34 deceased intravenous drug abusers of heroin and methadone and compared them to the brains of 16 young people who were not drug users. Their examination revealed brain damage in the drug abusers normally seen in much older people.  

    It is not unrealistic to think that Marilyn Monroe would have graduated to newer drug use – barbiturates in the Sixties; heroine and methadone in the Eighties.

    In the Edinburgh study, the damaged nerve cells were in the areas of the brain involved in learning, memory and emotional well being, and were similar to damage found in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

    "Our study shows evidence of an increased risk of brain damage associated with heroin and methadone use, which may be highest in the young, when individuals are most likely to acquire the habit," said co-author Jeanne Bell, a Professor of Neuropathology. "We found that the brains of these young drug abusers showed significantly higher levels of two key proteins associated with brain damage."

    "In a previous study we found out that drug abuse causes low grade inflammation in the brain. Taken together, the two studies suggest that intravenous opiate abuse may be linked to premature ageing of the brain," Bell said.  The average age in these two groups in the study was only 26. "The drug abusers we looked at in the study sadly died at a young age, but there are many others who don't realize the long-term effects that these drugs may be causing." 

    As a teenager, I adored Marilyn Monroe.  Her smile, her bountifully sexy 2-hour glass figure, her joie de vivre, all added up the perfect life – or so I thought.  Imagine all those men chasing her, wanting to be with her.  Who wouldn’t want to be her?  Ah, Hollywood.

  • I was heartbroken when she died, along with the rest of America.  The “It Girl,”,the gal who seemed to have it all, just made one simple mistake leading to an overdose.  Otherwise, I was sure, she would have been fine.  A bad night turned into an avoidable tragedy.  But as I read about her in the years afterwards, about the brain she was ruining, I realized she would never have made it to old age.  She was a train wreck waiting to happen.

    The odds had beaten Marilyn.  What a loss.