"Patzer sees check, Patzer makes check."

- Bobby Fischer
"He Died From Heroin"

Aaron Sorkin wrote the following in a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman:

Phil Hoffman and I had two things in common. We were both fathers of young children, and we were both recovering drug addicts... On breaks during rehearsals, we would sometimes slip outside our soundstage on the Paramount lot and get to swapping stories. It’s not unusual to have these mini-AA meetings — people like us are the only ones to whom tales of insanity don’t sound insane. “Yeah, I used to do that.” I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish. And he said this: “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.” He meant that our deaths would make news and maybe scare someone clean.

So it’s in that spirit that I’d like to say this: Phil Hoffman, this kind, decent, magnificent, thunderous actor... did not die from an overdose of heroin — he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine.

He didn’t die because he was partying too hard or because he was depressed — he died because he was an addict on a day of the week with a y in it. He’ll have his well-earned legacy — his Willy Loman that belongs on the same shelf with Lee J. Cobb’s and Dustin Hoffman’s, his Jamie Tyrone, his Truman Capote and his Academy Award. Let’s add to that 10 people who were about to die who won’t now.

I don't know if that's true. I don't if Hoffman's death will save lives. If so, I hope it saves hundreds or even thousands.

Two parts of of this really stuck with me.

1. "did not die from an overdose of heroin — he died from heroin".
What a great statement. He's right. When the media says "overdose" it implies that he took too much, and that if he kept his doses manageable he wouldn't have died. Any amount is too much.

2. "I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish."
This got me to thinking. How do people ever get started on heroin? I understand that it's a tough addiction to beat. I get that. But how does one get started in the first place?

I know how people start smoking. "Here, want to try one?"
I know how people start drinking. "Dude, let's go party."
I think I know how someone could get started on marijuana or even taking pills.
But shooting up with needles? "Here want to try to stick a needle in your arm? It'll make you look cool." Or "Let's go party by sitting around and passing around syringes" just doesn't have the same ring.

I don't ask with a judgmental spirit. I'm honestly curious. It just seems like the method would be its own preventative. (like if I told you could get a great high by sticking your face in a beehive, or that sticking your tongue on a cold flag pole would make you feel gnarly.)

Again, I mean no disrespect to those ensnared by this terrible chemical demon. But I am interested in your thoughts.


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Comments on ""He Died From Heroin"":
1. jez - 02/07/2014 4:28 am CST

I guess you start taking H by some other route (sniffing, smoking) and once the tolerance has built up sufficiently, shooting is the only way left to get high. But you're right, lots of otherwise enthusiastic narcotics users are, like Sorkin, squeamish, including Russell Brand who just wrote a fairly nice piece about AA: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/mar/09/russell-brand-life-without-drugs

2. damien - 02/07/2014 7:59 am CST

i would guess that most of the first experiences with heroin by way of the needle were preceded by something (already habitual) that drastically lowered inhibitions.

3. NHE - 02/07/2014 8:06 am CST

I was going to say what jez said. The needle begins when the true addiction begins. Shooting becomes not only the only way to get high, it also becomes the fastest way to get high.

Addicts even get to the place where they've so messed up their arms that they have to use veins on their legs and feet and other places. If they could get the same high by smoking or ingesting, I would think those ways would be preferable.

The movie "Requiem for a Dream", isn't for the faint of heart, but it gives good insight into this.

The Hoffman story is very sad.

4. Flyaway - 02/07/2014 12:02 pm CST

Hoffman was a great actor. I was so sorry to hear of his death.

The only drug I'm addicted to is caffeine. So far I haven't come to the bottom and wanted a way out. I tell myself that I use it medicinally for pain.

I'm wondering that if parents used pot before their children are born if that makes a person more likely to use strong drugs. My mother never drank a cup of coffee but my grandmother drank coffee. Did that affect me?

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