Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death surprised many, but hit hard with me. Although his (or any celebrity’s) life is not worth more than any other one, Hoffman’s craft brought joy and entertainment to millions of people over the course of his short time on earth. What is most devastating to me, though, is how he died. According to the New York Times, he was found dead from an apparent drug overdose, needle still stuck in his arm, with a bag of alleged heroin close by. How could one of the nation’s most talented men, well-respected in his industry, succumb to such a drug?
According to the CDC, “Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2010. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes.” While my immediate reaction to that fact is astonishment, I am reminded of the problems within my own circle — problems that always lead back to drugs. Where does the initial need or want of drugs come from? Why do some people look to drugs for comfort while others don’t? How can people come from similar backgrounds but have such different choices when it comes to substance abuse?
I remember hearing about family and family friends who went to jail, lost their children, overdosed — you name it — because of their drug use. These stories frightened me; I didn’t need D.A.R.E., these real-life, close-to-home stories were enough to send me running. Yet, I know so many people who grew up with the same stories, the same “bad influences,” and went the opposite way. I teach students who I see making similar decisions and I try my best to do what I can, offer any intervention through news articles, stories, poems, anything that will grab their attention, but sometimes my efforts seem meaningless — why?
On a slightly-related note: I have been reading about the school-to-prison pipeline. One of the coolest things I’ve encountered regarding it is The Real Cost of Prisons Comix, which outlines the “-isms” involved in “the drug war.” Although it doesn’t matter what race, gender, class or sexuality you are for drugs to become an issue, there seems to be a disjointed relationship between marginalized youths and drug use. All of this to say: I don’t know about “THE drug war,” but there is a war going on — it’s affecting prominent peoples, like Hoffman, and most importantly, it’s affecting our youth. The only thing I know to do is write, read, and think about it — this is step one.