The recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has once again shined a spotlight on heroin addiction. A true epidemic that is not only impacting inner cities, suburbs and rural areas, but also poor, middle and upper classes, the rich and famous included. Phillip Seymour Hoffman passed away in his New York City apartment on February 2nd, 2014 from a drug overdose. In his home police found heroin, as well as several different prescription medications, such as xanax and klonopin. This tragic event has reminded us that addiction is a life threatening chronic disease that does not discriminate. Many people believe that drug addiction only impacts the poor who live in the gutter.  But  addiction can take any life at anytime. Regardless of who the victim is, where they live or what they do for a living.  Overdose deaths related to heroin and opiates have continued to increase and the numbers are staggering.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman was an Academy Award winning actor, who was not only loved by millions around the world, but was also considered one of the most respected actors of his time by his peers. Hoffman started his career with humble beginnings taking supporting roles in TV dramas such as “Law and Order”, but shortly moved to supporting roles in Hollywood films such as “Scent of a Woman” and “Boogie Nights”. In 2004 Hoffman played the starring role in the Truman Capote biopic “Capote”.  It was this role that won him an academy award for best actor. On paper and on screen, we saw what seemed to be a very successful actor, who when not working on his art, was spending time his family.

Hoffman attended New York University, which is where his problems with addiction began. He has stated in interviews that he would use whatever he could get his hands on. It was during these years that his drug use went from experimenting, to abuse and finally to addiction/dependency. In 1989, when Hoffman graduated he checked himself into a 28 day inpatient addiction treatment center.  He remained sober for 23 years. It was during these 23 years of sobriety that he did the majority of his acting and reached goals few actors ever reach. Little is known about Hoffman’s personal life; he was notoriously secretive and would rarely talk about his family or personal life in interviews. What we do know is that throughout the years, addiction stayed with him. Addiction, like diabetes, is a chronic disease which can go into remission, but can also reoccur at anytime if not managed properly.

Sadly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s addiction to heroin and other drugs reoccurred after 23 years of sobriety.  In 2012, it was reported that Hoffman had began using heroin again after being prescribed strong opiate pain medication for a procedure he had the same year. The use of heroin after using opiate painkillers is a story we see and hear about quite often.  In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse nearly half of all young heroin intravenous users first abused prescription opioids.

In May 2012, Hoffman checked himself into a treatment program for 10 days, but at some point continued to use. 23 years sober and still struggling with addiction, Hoffman found himself in the exact place he was in 23 years prior.

On February 2nd, the world lost Phillip Seymour Hoffman to his addiction. The initial reaction to his death was a mixture of shock and sadness. The world was shocked we had a lost such an accomplished actor we all loved to addiction, but what the world missed is that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was no different than any other type of addict. Hoffman suffered from a progressive disease that when untreated can be fatal. Addiction does not discriminate.

If two good things can come out of this tragic story, it’s the increased awareness of addiction in general and the proof that even after years of sobriety, addiction can claim lives, because addiction is not curable and people have to fight everyday for their sobriety. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a successful, respected man with a loving family.  Mr. Hoffman starred in over 50 films, won countless awards for his art and will be considered one of the most respected actors of our time. He had been sober for 23 years, but somehow the addiction reclaimed his life.  Underneath all this there was an addict and the addict in Phillip Seymour Hoffman was no different than the addict without a home you walk past on the street, the addict who makes your coffee in the morning or the addict who lives next door to you.

There is hope for those with addictions.  Many in Hollywood and elsewhere are urging people to speak out and better understand addiction as the disease it truly is.  Demi Lovato stated. “I wish more people would lose the stigma and treat addiction as the deadly and serious DISEASE that it is.” Addiction can be treated.  When it is not treated it can ruin and end lives.  If you or someone you know has an addiction, reach out for help.

New Hope Recovery Center is Chicago’s premier addiction treatment facility offering treatment for heroin, alcohol and other substances.  You can reach us at info@new-hope-recovery.com, 773-883-3916 or visit us at 2835 N. Sheffield Ave., #304, Chicago IL 60657.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

Want more information about Heroin? Check out our Journal for related articles or see below:

Chicago Heroin Addiction and Facts Heroin use in Chicago and surrounding suburbs has continued to escalate.  Heroin is an extremely addictive opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance, known as “black tar heroin.”

Heroin Abuse Warning Signs Heroin has been receiving more attention in the news recently. CBS NEWS: Hooked on Heroin;  NY TIMES: Heroin in New England, More Abundant and Deadly; BBC News: Cory Monteith: The Heroin users that don’t fit the ‘junkie’ stereotype; USA Today: OxyContin a Gateway to Heroin for Upper-Income Addicts. Although it can be upsetting this is very helpful because greater awareness about Heroin and its warning signs can help save lives.   Sadly heroin use has increased all over the US, including in the Chicagoland area.

Parents’ Guide to Prevent Heroin Use and Addiction We previously discussed Chicago’s heroin epidemic and saw that the rapid increase in young adults becoming addicted to heroin is truly startling. There are steps that parents can take to prevent their loved ones from becoming a sad statistic of the heroin epidemic.

Chicago’s Heroin Epidemic – Parents Beware As an addiction treatment center in Lincoln Park, Chicago, we see trends in addiction first hand.  Although all addictions are heartbreaking, nothing has touched us as deeply as the current heroin epidemic among young people.  We have seen young adults in their late teens and early twenties struggling to recover from one of the most dangerous, addictive and life-threatening drugs.  It is a hard struggle – for both the addicts and their families.

Heroin (Opiate) Addiction – Suboxone vs. Vivitrol Medication-assisted treatment for addiction, especially opiates (such as Heroin, Vicodin, and Oxycontin), is not new nor is the controversy that accompanies it.  The most recent controversy involves the use of medications to aid in the treatment of opiate addiction, with Suboxone and Vivitrol receiving the most press.  There is an abundant amount of information available on the internet – unfortunately not all of it is accurate. Keep in mind the choice whether to use medication to assist in opiate addiction rehab is a personal decision best made with accurate information and support from an informed addiction health care team.