It saddens us to watch our heroes fall, to be taken away from us while many are at the height of their career and their artistic influence upon our culture. It is disturbing to find out that their deaths are drug-induced, and not a natural course of events in which all lives will end at some point in time. The suddenness of a death by overdose comes as a shock to us all, causing us to assess what we can and must do to prevent such needless losses in the future.
A History of Loss by Heroin
In recent times, we have seen the legacy of a number of artistic greats cut short by Heroin overdose (or heroin-cocaine mix), the likes of Janis Joplin, John Belushi, River Phoenix, Corey Monteith, and most recently Phillip Seymour Hoffman. We could ask ourselves, why?
According to Dr. Jason Jerry of the Cleveland Clinic, the use of heroin in the entertainment industry is not new, citing its use in the 1950’s by jazz musicians. Because artists/entertainers
of note tend to be in the spotlight, the public hears of it.
Dr. Joseph Strand of the Harvard Medical School noted that there are certain professions of high stress and high visibility such as those in the entertainment industry, and it is his opinion that there is a “greater proclivity” to drug and alcohol use to get rid of that type of stress. He also noted that such high-profile and highly visible professions may give such individuals a sense that “nothing bad can ever happen” to them.
With the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the many prescription drugs found in his apartment (Vyvanse used to treat ADD, buprenorphine used to treat addiction, hdroxyzine used to treat anxiety, methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant drug) fit a pattern which indicates a path leading to addiction, the using of prescription drugs that act as a gateway to heroin use, or a combination use of the heroin in concert with the prescription drug or drugs.
Also noted by Dr. Jerry was that fact that many people begin taking narcotic painkillers which are prescribed to them, but find them addictive. He added that once addicted, they realize the cost of heroin is about one-tenth the cost of a milligram of ocycodone, for example. It is rationalized with the idea that snorting heroin is different than “shooting it like a junkie”, but the person can suddenly find themselves shooting-up. That is the nature of heroin use.
In a February 3rd, 2014 CBS News article, it was reported that officials are concerned about the use of an especially deadly combination of heroin mixed with Fentanyl, a narcotic painkiller. Nearly 100 deaths in the last year are attributed to the mixture including the states of New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennylvainia, Maryland and Louisiana. It is thought to be this mixture that claimed the life of Hoffman.
According to Dr. Karen Hacker of the Allegheny County Health Department in the state of Pennsylvania, there have been 15 overdose deaths linked to the mixture of heroin and Fentanyl in her area just within the last month. She said the combining of the heroin with a synthetic opioid can increase the strength and intensity of the heroin “between 10 and 100 times.”
Ben Levenson of the substance abuse rehab, Origins Recovery Center, located in South Padre Island, Texas, pointed out that the composition of heroin varies widely even if the user gets it from the same drug dealer. He added that the risk increases when addicts are unaware they are obtaining “an especially potent strain” of the drug, and using the usual amount can result in an overdose.
One ex-heroin addict who is now sober thanks to successfully completing the Narconon Program at Narconon Arrowhead in Canadian, Oklahoma, shared her insight on the issue of heroin addiction. She noted that it is now a very popular drug of choice, and it is likely there were “a hundred or more addicts” who died from heroin overdose on the day Hoffman did. Yet these individuals who lost their lives won’t get the same press coverage, and only their families and loved one will be dealing with the pain of their loss.
In closing, she expressed her thankfulness that Narconon was there to help her, just as they have been helping heroin addicts to lead sober lives for nearly 50 years.