Another celebrity death has brought drug overdose into the spotlight again. Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead on February 2, of a possible heroin overdose. Hoffman had decades of sobriety, but relapsed last year, sought treatment and apparently relapsed again. He was 46 and left three young children.
Even before Hoffman’s death, certain cities were experiencing spates of overdose deaths linked to batches of heroin mixed with the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Law enforcement had found the drugs and linked them to multiple deaths: 13 in Rhode Island, 22 in Pennsylvania around Pittsburgh, 37 in Maryland since last fall.
The combination of heroin with fentanyl, one of the most powerful painkillers, can be deadly for anyone. It presents a special vulnerability to someone in recovery. When you stop using heroin, your body loses some of the tolerance it has built up during abuse. Returning to an old dosage is enough to affect the brain stem and depress breathing to the point of stopping it.
It’s easy to say ‘if a rich famous actor can’t stay clean, what chance do I have?” What chance does anyone have? The chance you take on yourself and the willingness to be attentive and mindful. The willingness to see addiction as a disease and not one that has a cure–one that needs your vigilance. Yes, it would be nice to be done with it and forget about it, but that can’t happen. Put yourself and your sobriety first.
Don’t take it for granted. Never think you have all the answers and that you can go back. There will be more overdose deaths—some of famous people, some of people mourned by only a few. Learn your vigilance from them and say ‘not me, not this time.’
Pay attention. Be mindful.
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