The Sad Downward Spiral Following A Relapse And A Domestic Split
UPDATE: February 5: Police Make 4 Arrests in Hoffman Investigation
Three men and a woman have been arrested in New York City’s lower Manhattan area, and a search of three apartments found 350 bags of heroin.
The New York Times confirmed the suspects as Robert Vineberg, 57, who lives at 302 Mott Street in Apt. 38 where the majority of the bags of heroin were found was charged with drug possession and criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Max Rosenblum, 22, and Juliana Luchkiw, 22, who live together in Apt. 27 at 302 Mott Street, were also each charged with drug possession and criminal use of drug paraphernalia. And Thomas Cushman, 48, who was in Apt. 21, was charged with drug possession.
TMZ.com is reporting that police got a tip from a heroin addict who claims to have shared a deal with Philip Seymour Hoffman. The site also reports that sources have told them Vineberg, under his stage name – Robert Aaron – has played saxophone for Mick Jagger, Amy Winehouse, Wyclef Jean, Tom Jones and David Bowie.
Meanwhile, the New York Daily News is shedding some light on Hoffman’s final days, reporting “Hoffman showed up in search of moral support at the 8:30 p.m. Alcoholics Anonymous meeting Jan. 26 near his West Village apartment. Dressed in a heavy dark coat, dark jeans and boots, Hoffman was a familiar face at the storefront on Perry St. where he had been coming to meetings for 25 years. But he hadn’t been by in a while.“It’s good to see you,” another regular, 53-year-old Jose Torres of SoHo, recalled telling Hoffman.“He was doing fine at the moment. He didn’t look drunk or high or anything like that.”
While the world of cinema was shocked by the sudden news that acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead Sunday morning, February 2nd, with a syringe in his arm and dozens of bags of heroin and needles littering his West Village apartment, many reports have said his family and friends were not. Horribly saddened yes, but not surprised.
The Oscar® winning actor, once the darling of movie critics, had now become fodder for the tabloid press as Hoffman’s struggles with substance abuse and addiction became the top tending topic across social media and photos of his spiral downward splashed across media sites like a tidal wave.
Police are trying to locate surveillance camera recordings from an ATM machine in a nearby grocery store where witnesses have said they saw Hoffman withdrawing money and appearing to purchase drugs from two men who looked like bicycle couriers. The same witnesses say the actor looked pale, disheveled and sweaty.
Dr. Harris Stratyner, Clinical Regional Vice-President of Caron Treatment Centers, who did not treat Philip Seymour Hoffman, speaks about addiction to a number of media newscasts and programs, and says that the actor’s death reaffirms that substance abuse and addiction is a life-long disease.
Reasons For The Dangerous Surge In Heroin Use
Fatal heroin overdoses in the United States rose from 1,879 annually in 2004 to 3,038 as of 2010 according to the latest data from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). And according to a UN study last November, opium poppy cultivation (the plant heroin is derived from) in Afghanistan is up by 36% and the resulting opium production rose by 49%.
We may be winning the war on terrorism but we’re losing the war on drugs. The map below from the UN’s World Drug Report 2012 shows the use of opioids – mainly heroin, morphine and non-medical use of prescription opioids – remains dangerously high.
One of the alarming trends law enforcement officials have observed is the transition from prescription medications to heroin. A recent study found that 80% of people who tried heroin for the first time had previously been using prescribed meds.
Price may also be a factor, especially in the face of a widespread crackdown on the abuse of painkillers such as OxyContin – it’s cheaper to buy heroin, but the problem with street heroin is that you don’t know what it’s being cut with. That ignorance has caused fatal results on the U.S. East Coast last year and again over the past few months because of heroin doses spiked with a cancer painkiller of last resort – a synthetic morphine called acetyl fentanyl. It has been confirmed as the cause of death in 19 of 22 fatal overdoses in 13 days in Rhode Island, 22 deaths in Pennsylvania and 5 deaths on Long Island just last month.
Police officials have said, off-the-record, that samples of heroin found in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s apartment didn’t show any traces of the fentanyl. Investigators did find buprenorphine, a drug used to treat heroin addiction.
Addiction specialists, in sudden favor with the 24 hour cable news factories, say Hoffman’s heroin use seems to follow an all-too-familiar pattern seen in other addicts with financial means who’ve built up a long-term tolerance to heroin and stockpile the drug because they can tolerate up to two bundles, or about 24 packets, per day, often needing to shoot-up every few hours to reach the same ‘high’.
Police found over 70 packets of heroin in Hoffman’s apartment and other drug paraphernalia along with a muscle relaxant and blood pressure medication. Some of the packets were stamped with the Ace of Hearts and the Ace of Spades, the latter a brand not seen on the streets since 2008 in Brooklyn, suggesting Hoffman had, indeed, stockpiled it.
Philip Seymour Hoffman Didn’t Have to Die
That headline is the claim of Maia Szalavitz, author of Born For Love: Why Empathy Is Essential – and Endangered, and a neuroscience journalist for Time.com. She writes:
Opioid drugs aren’t only killing celebrities— poisoning deaths, most of which are due to drugs, have actually overtaken car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., responsible for nearly 40,000 fatalities annually. But those numbers don’t need to be so high.
Although preventing opioid addiction is difficult, preventing deaths from it is far simpler. The majority can be avoided with simple measures — such as knowing the signs of overdose and keeping a nontoxic antidote available in first aid kits— that the U.S. has been slow to adopt. The stigma of addiction and the lack of organized advocacy for affected people have been the biggest barriers to change.
Whether it’s a heroin addict who has relapsed, a toddler who gets into grandma’s oxycontin, a granddad who drinks and takes the wrong pills or a teenager who tries these drugs in a dangerously high dose, there are ways to prevent these individuals from becoming victims of an overdose.
1) Be an active witness
While people tend to imagine that overdoses primarily occur when drug users are alone, in fact, at least half of them happen in the presence of others. In England, for example, 80% of users who overdosed did so while with others and 54% had also witnessed others who had OD’d. A study in New York similarly found that 57% of over 1,000 crack and heroin users had personally witnessed at least one overdose. A Rhode Island study revealed that 35% of opioid users had overdosed at least once themselves and two-thirds had seen someone else do so.
While we don’t know whether anyone was with Hoffman when he injected the drugs that likely killed him, if he was not intentionally seeking suicide, it’s possible that someone might have been with him at some point during the one to three hours it typically takes for opioids to kill. And if his injection was witnessed and that person had known the signs of overdose, the actor would have had an excellent chance of surviving.
2) Know the signs: Don’t let them sleep it off
While it’s not clear whether Hoffman had company when he stopped breathing, he could only have been saved if those nearby had known the signs of overdose and intervened.
If someone has taken any kind of depressant drug— including alcohol, benzodiazepines like Xanax or Ativan or painkillers— and they seem to be breathing unusually slowly, letting them “sleep it off” could be fatal. These drugs are far more likely to be lethal when taken together than when taken alone. In fact, most opioid overdoses actually include a combination of other drugs, including alcohol and anti-anxiety medications, that further depress breathing to dangerously low levels.
If someone has taken these drugs and starts “snoring funny,” or seems to have a bluish tinge to their skin and will not respond when you try to wake them, it’s a medical emergency. Call 911 and then start CPR with rescue breathing. Although chest compressions can be used without rescue breathing for heart attack victims, this does not work in case of overdose— what kills them is a lack of oxygen, so rescue breathing is imperative.
3) Know about naloxone
Although opioid overdoses typically take several hours to kill, once breathing has slowed past a certain point, it takes just seconds for the lack of oxygen to damage the brain irreversibly. But there is an antidote that if used before this point — even when the opioids are mixed with other drugs— that can instantly reverse what excessive amounts of the drugs can do, typically reviving victims in seconds.
That drug is known as naloxone (Narcan). The government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is currently distributing an “Opioid Overdose Toolkit” [PDF] to encourage communities to learn about overdose symptoms and increase its availability. If you have an addicted family member or know someone at risk for overdose, the kit provides information on how to get it. Naloxone is nontoxic and cannot be abused— in fact, it causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms so there is little likelihood it would be misused, and even less chance it would encourage more drug use as an overdose “safety net.”
Where can a person with no money and no insurance get treatment?
You can use the “SELECT SERVICES” button from any of the search pages and check the boxes for “sliding fee scale” and “payment assistance.” Then call the facilities to determine their policy.
You can contact your State Substance Abuse Agency. You may also call one of the Referral Helplines operated by SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment:
What can be done for a family member who needs treatment but refuses to get it or leaves treatment before it is completed?
If person is 18 or over, he/she cannot be compelled to get treatment unless it is court-ordered, usually as part of a sentence.
What facilities accept court-ordered clients?
For advice, contact your State Substance Abuse Agency or local criminal justice system. You can also call some of the facilities in your area and ask.
How can I find a facility that specializes in treating abuse of a particular drug (e.g., cocaine, inhalants, etc.)?
Most of the facilities listed in the Locator are capable of treating any substance abuse problem. To make certain, you can call a particular facility and ask. Facilities that offer methadone generally have a program for the treatment of heroin addiction.
Can you recommend a particular treatment program in my area?
We are not a treatment referral agency and cannot make specific recommendations or endorsements of individual treatment facilities or types of treatment. All of the facilities listed in the Locator are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved for inclusion by their State’s substance abuse treatment authority. To make certain that a facility identified by the Locator meets your particular needs, call the facility directly.
Looking For Treatment?
What treatment is available?
No single form of drug treatment is effective for all people – there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, no ‘magic bullets’.
Access to a wide range of treatment options is required to respond to the varying needs of problem drug users.
Drug treatment is available to anybody who needs it and is often the first step on the road to recovery.
People access drug treatment in a variety of ways.
The majority who receive NHS treatment either refer themselves or are referred by their GP or another part of the NHS. The average wait to get into treatment is less than a week. Around only one in three of those in treatment are referred via the criminal justice system.
Support and Advice
Drug treatment in England has vastly improved in the past decade.
Now anyone who needs treatment can get it quickly and far more people are receiving help.
If you need help, support or advice there are a number of organizations who can help.
Australian Government National Drugs Campaign App
Betty Ford Center Foundation Program Funds
Financial Assistance Fund
What if the only thing standing in the way of treatment for your addiction or that of a loved one was a lack of funds?