Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Sends Powerful Message about Addiction

actor philip seymour hoffmanSeveral stories and editorial pieces have appeared this week in response to the death of the phenomenally talented Philip Seymour Hoffman. In case you missed it in the news, the 46-year-old actor died on Sunday of a heroin overdose.

Along with the countless others who have appreciated and been moved by Hoffman’s work over the years, many of us here at GoodTherapy.org are mourning the loss of his strong presence and untapped potential, as well as remembering and honoring his on-screen achievements and impact.

For anyone who has ever battled an addiction or cared for a person who struggles with addiction,  there are no words to describe the experience of witnessing an intelligent, gifted individual destroy himself for the sake of a substance. 

Heightened awareness of heroin addiction is spreading in the days following Hoffman’s overdose. A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency recently described its widespread use as a problem of “epidemic proportions” (Pearce and Susman, 2014). According to a CNN report from earlier this week, nationwide use increased 102% from 2002 to 2012, largely due to its cheap cost and accessibility; and since September of 2013, heroin tainted with fentanyl has taken at least 37 lives in Maryland, with 22 additional overdose reports coming in from Pennsylvania. Other states have noted an increase in the number of people showing up in hospitals and rehab facilities due to heroin use (Perez, Dunnan, and Ford, 2014).

In short, Hoffman was not alone. While some can only imagine how he wrestled with his dependence on one of the most addictive drugs in the world, others know the battle all too wellMillions of people are currently hooked on heroin’s highly addictive, “pill-like high,” with most having tried it for the first time in their early 20s (Perez, Dunnan, and Ford, 2014). Even for those who manage to kick the habit and commit to recovery, as Hoffman reportedly did, the temptation to use again is often a lifelong affliction, and relapse is common.

Hoffman’s family released a statement on Sunday expressing their gratitude for the “outpouring of love and support” from people and encouraging them to “Please keep Phil in your thoughts and prayers.”

In the wake of his tragic passing, Hoffman’s words allegedly spoken to a friend may well come to fruition: “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.”

References:

  1. NBCNews.com. (2014, February 3). Actor and Fairport native Philip Seymour Hoffman found dead. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/54252469/ns/local_news-rochester_ny/t/actor-fairport-native-philip-seymour-hoffman-found-dead/#.UvVAt_ldUTA
  2. Pearce, M., and Susman, T. (2014, February 3). Philip Seymour Hoffman dies amid major comeback of heroin in the U. S. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-heroin-surge-philip-seymour-hoffman-20140203,0,6211890.story#axzz2sfoFRJE6
  3. Perez, E., Dunnan, T., and Ford, D. (2014, February 4). Ready access, low cost, pill-like high: Heroin’s rise and fatal draw. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/02/us/heroin-use-rising/index.html
  4. Sorkin, A. (2014, February 5). Aaron Sorkin: Philip Seymour Hoffmann saved 10 lives. TIME Entertainment. Retrieved from http://entertainment.time.com/2014/02/05/aaron-sorkin-philip-seymour-hoffmans-death-saved-10-lives/
  5. Weber, B. (2014, February 2). Philip Seymour Hoffman, actor of depth, dies at 46. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/03/movies/philip-seymour-hoffman-actor-dies-at-46.html?_r=0

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  • Josie

    Josie

    February 8th, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    News like this always makes me so sad because he was such a wonderful actor and I am sure had so much more to give than what any of us will ever know.
    Addiction is such a heartbreaking thing- I have never known addiction on a personal level, but I have seen enough to know just how ruinous it can be on the lives of those who live with it daily, either in their own lives or see it happening in the lives of those friends and family members.
    I always hope that when something like this has to happen that the message will be sent that drugs and any addiction are serious, dangerous, and that people need to seek out help. But yet it continues to happen again and again and I wonder exactly what has to happen to get the message out there that too many lives are being lost as a result.
    Prayers for the friends and family of this fine actor as I know he will be terribly missed by all who had him in their lives.

  • henry thoms

    henry thoms

    February 10th, 2014 at 3:53 AM

    I am not sure I understand what this teaches us other than the fact that being addicted to a substance like this is bad and that if you are then bad things will probably happen to you?

    And how many times have we heard this message and how many people know it and yet how many people like this continue to use time after time?

    I am not sure what it is going to take to break this ongoing cycle of addiction in some as it is so powerful over them and even after years of trying many of them never seem to find a way to kick the habit for good.

  • Coral

    Coral

    February 10th, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    such a waste of talent on something that could have been remarkably avoided if only the support and will would have been all he needed to get through it

  • ashlyn

    ashlyn

    February 11th, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    I thought that he was a wonderful actor and I was quite saddened to hear of his passing.

    I feel terrible for the family he left behind as I know that they went through the highs and lows of recovery and addiction with him, so I hope that they get some help to get them through what is sure to be such a difficult time.

    Let us withhold our judgements as to whether drug use is right or wrong- it is obviously dangerous and many have lost their lives as a result of these choices that they have made.

    Let us instead keep our eyes open to the possibility of educating and sharing awareness of drug use which is still such a pervasive problem in our society.

  • Lane

    Lane

    February 12th, 2014 at 6:01 AM

    Does it send a powerful message? I thought that too about Cory Monteith’s death back in the summer and here we are again going through the same thing, the same issues with another great and talented actor. I don’t know whether this is really the epidemic that we are starting to believe or if these actors and creative types are more predisposed to getting involved in drugs and alcohol like this. I don’t know if that’s the case, I guess that those are just the people we see in the news all the time headed to rehab and stuff. Either way, it’s sad, and I would hope that no one in my own life chooses this path because it rarely ends well.

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