Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Tragic. It’s the word that is used more than any other when talking about the death of someone before their time and at 46 we know that this great actor had so many more award-winning, critic raving roles left in him. But I am getting fed up of the sympathy these celebrities are receiving because they have died from a drugs overdose when in the US alone yesterday there were over 100 drug overdoses that killed people.

The stats show us that in a year just shy of forty thousand people die each year from all types of drug overdose in the United States. It just hits us when it is a Philip Seymour Hoffman, a Cory Monteith, a Michael Jackson, a Whitney Houston, an Amy Winehouse or Heath Ledger. Some are tragic mistakes, others are accidents – but some, and this would appear to be one of them, are self-inflicted because of addiction. I know that addiction is not a choice – but we all make choices and take risks every day of our lives. Several years ago he made a choice and ultimately it killed him yesterday.

I would never make any judgement on an individual and their own personal battles as Addiction is an illness that affects people differently as all illnesses do. The question you are left with in a case like Hoffman’s is why would he go back to something he had successfully avoided for over twenty years and risk losing his wife and three young children for it? From the outside it makes no sense and it appears hard for us to work out how the mind is working to go down that path. Relapses are so common and again the individual’s ability to step away or be sucked in is only something they can understand. The other issue it raises is the “War on Drugs” is not going to be won or lost – it’ll will remain a stalemate forever unless someone takes a leap of faith or thought.

Drugs and addiction affect everyone regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality – Hoffman is as much a statistic as the others across the planet who died yesterday for prescription addiction, alcohol addiction, illegal substance addiction. As much as I enjoyed his work it almost seems absurd to single him out just because he was successful or famous. He can’t have been the only person with something to offer or a family to support who lost the fight to addiction in the last day. We can’t keep ignoring the problems of drugs in society or fobbing off concerns about decriminalising marijuana – we need to have grown up conversations across all areas of this problem and stop assuming we can “beat it”.

Yes he will be missed, but so will all those others that can’t beat the addictions. I’ve seen what addiction can do first hand and how corrosive and dangerous it is; I know just how much of a hold it can get on people and that only the person can truly make the change required to help them take the steps to escape from it. They aren’t all “junkies” or “minks” many are outwardly well-adjusted, successful, apparently “normal” people. The preconception we have of it being the super famous and the very poor is a skewed and false perception we need to get past.

As always it’s the family that my thought are with – they have lost their father, husband and friend. No matter who it is the hole left behind is a lasting reminder of choices made. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a great actor but a flawed human – we all have flaws, it’s just this one killed him and around a hundred of his countrymen and women yesterday.

JD

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