After the recent tragedy of beloved film star Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death, society is reminded yet again of the perils and pain that life in the spotlight can bring. Too many bright candles have been blown out by the differentiating winds of fortune and fame. From the grimiest street to the Hollywood elite, a rare few celebrities claim total immunity from the dark temptation of pain relieving substances, legal or illegal.
From King George V, to rapper Pimp C, there is a long list of lost talent written on the pages of Hollywood history that appears to be endless. In a 2007 interview with musician Citizen Cope regarding his work with the legendary Carlos Santana, he was asked about any career advice Santana may have given him.
He said, “Yeah, he told me to watch out for the Two H’s, Heroin, and helicopters.”
He then went on to explain how so many artists in the music and film industry had their lives cut short due to drug addiction, and small aircraft. Just in last few years alone there have been a string of drug related celebrity deaths including Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, Glee star Cory Monteith and now Hoffman. A tie of Hollywood stardom doused in the ending light of heroin and other substance abuses.
One can only look on in wonder, as to how another horror story like the one just witnessed with Hoffman can still be possible, even with the vast number of famed drug tragedies that preceded his own.
What is the connection between fame and sorrow? Why are so many entertainers who appear to “have it all” still searching for something else? Is it really that painful and lonely at the top?
Dr. Joseph Strand of Harvard Medical School recently stated “In certain professions where there is high stress there is a greater proclivity to people using alcohol or drugs to get rid of that kind of stress.”
Some addiction experts say heroin may be more appealing to those in the spotlight because it allows users to escape reality.
Additionally, often times heroin may become the cheaper solution to narcotic pain pill addiction. Especially if a doctor feels a patient has turned the corner from pain relief, to dependency and is no longer willing to prescribe the medication. In comparison of pharmaceutical prices to street value which is generally a tenth of the cost, the prescription may be free, and it might be an easy transition.
Celebrity drug addiction is indeed an issue worth talking about. Make no mistake about it, there is a nation wide epidemic of substance abuse affecting neighbors, friends and loved ones as well.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug use is highest among people in their late teens and twenties. Their statistics show marijuana at the top with 65.6 percent. What is truly alarming is narcotic pain relievers were responsible for 17 percent use which nearly equals in size of all other illicit drug use combined.
Viewers see celebrity names and popular faces on the big screen, inviting them into their homes night after night, falling in love with the characters they play. Yet viewers only watch these stars from a distance, and seldom do they get to know the ordinary soul that lies within.
Heroin is not the hero in any of these particular stories, but rather the villain. A wolf with unparalleled theatrical skill and ability to deceive even the best of actors, musicians, and aspiring artists seeking their own world recognition and all that comes with it. A deception that stole the light from the talented mind of Philip Seymour Hoffman and so many before him.
Editorial by Aaron Thompson