When someone mentions heroin addiction, most people automatically picture the usual stereotype: somebody who doesn’t take care of themselves, their personal hygiene, or the clothes they wear. Usually we imagine a criminal who steals from his family and friends to buy drugs because he can’t hold down a job, and is an outcast from society. While there are heroin addicts who buy their drugs in back alleys, there are also plenty of others who don’t. These are people who engage in their habit while maintaining a show of normalcy as high-functioning “users” who look fresh faced and physically healthy, and appear to be doing well in life. With a career and the ability to support a habit, some heroin addicts are even loved and well respected. In fact, some are capable of winning an Oscar.
An Unsuspected Addict
Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won an Oscar for best actor in 2006 for his portrayal of Truman Capote, was born in 1967 in upstate New York. He was interested in acting from an early age after being struck at 12 years old by a local stage production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. After studying theater as a teenager with the New York State Summer School of the Arts, Hoffman majored in drama at New York University.
The stage-trained actor was nominated for an Academy Award several times in his career for roles in The Master, Doubt, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Capote. He also received 3 Tony nominations for his work on Broadway, which included an acclaimed run as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. On Sunday, February 2, 2014, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who created a gallery of vivid characters during his brilliant career, was found dead on his Manhattan apartment’s bathroom floor with a syringe sticking out of his arm.
A Great Talent Dead at 46
Hoffman was one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood. He made his mark as a character actor and started his career in 1992 playing a spoiled prep school student in Scent of a Woman. He also played characters in movies such as Along Came Polly, The Big Lebowski, and Almost Famous. As a gay member of a porno film crew in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, and in Moneyball, playing Art Howe, the miserable manager of the Oakland A’s, Philip Seymour Hoffman became one of the most admired actors of his generation.
On the evening of his death, law enforcement officials, who spoke to the Associated Press on conditions of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the evidence yet, said the cause of Hoffman’s death was believed to be a suspected heroin overdose. Since then, it has been reported that close to 50 envelopes of heroin were found in the actor’s West Village apartment, along with a number of used syringes, prescription drugs, and empty baggies that authorities suspect had also contained heroin.
4 Arrests and 2 Diaries
Due to his celebrity, Hoffman’s overdose set off a manhunt. An internal email went out to all NYC Police supervisors to find the source of the narcotics. The heroin bags in Hoffman’s apartment were marked “Ace of Hearts” and “Ace of Spades.” Following a short investigation, officials discovered the bags had been purchased from a dealer operating out of an apartment on Mott Street, also in lower Manhattan. Robert Vineberg, 57, and Thomas Kushman, 48, have been charged with felony drug possession, and Max Rosenblum and Juliana Luchkiw, both 22, have been charged with misdemeanor drug possession in connection with the case.
In 2 recently discovered diaries, Philip Seymour Hoffman reveals that he was trapped in a love triangle between the mother of his children and a new girlfriend. The actor also speaks of being caught between the women and his excessive drug use. The leaked contents of the hand-written diaries reveal that Hoffman, who had just returned from filming the latest in the Hunger Games series, was wracked with guilt because of his substance abuse problems. With heroin seizures up 67% in New York City over the last 4 years, and the city awash in the cheap drug, he might have been better off someplace else.
A Growing Heroin Problem
Hoffman’s struggles with heroin began over 20 years ago. He recently admitted that after 2 decades of sobriety, he had relapsed and gone back into rehab after rediscovering the drug. His death has highlighted a growing problem. Heroin overdoses in the United States increased 45% from 1999 to 2010. The high-profile star’s OD has also put the spotlight on the existence of branded heroin bags and the underground marketing effort to sell them. Recently, during a Bronx arrest, police confiscated bags marked “Lady Gaga” and “Government Shutdown.”
Canada has “safe injection sites” for heroin addicts. A Toronto doctor, who has worked on the front lines of the city’s war with drug addiction for more than 20 years, claims the addicts he treats have benefited from safe injection sites. Fifty-four percent of Toronto drug users surveyed said that, without a safe place to inject, they’d resort to doing it alone in washrooms or stairwells. Russ Maynard, program director for Vancouver’s Insite program, says the program has a stabilizing effect. “Since Insite has been operating in 2003, we’ve seen a 30% decrease in overdoses,” he says. Had Hoffman been in a supervised safe injection site, he would likely have been resuscitated and lived.
His Talent Touched Us All
His personal battles with heroin use aside, Hoffman was a uniquely talented actor. In 2007, he made 3 films (The Savages, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), and in each one, he played a distinct and entirely different character. When you watched him work, it was as if his entire constitution changed. It was the actor’s “humanity” that was so striking, and with every new role he created, we grew closer to him. We’ll never know how he did it, but he was never the same character twice. For that, we will always be grateful.
- 10 things you didn’t know about Philip Seymour Hoffman! Fame 10 website. February 3, 2014. http://www.fame10.com/entertainment/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-philip-seymour-hoffman/?utm_source=outbrain&utm_campaign=fame10_mobile&utm_medium=cpc.
- Ellison M. Drug addictions: Toronto doctor urges city to get behind a safe injection site. The Star website. July 2, 2013. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/07/02/drug_addictions _toronto_doctor_urges_city_to_get_behind_a_safe_injection_site.html.
- Hartmann M, Coscarelli J. Four arrested in investigation of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death. New York website. February 5, 2014. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/02/four-arrested-in-philip-seymour-hoffmans-death.html.
- Hirschberg L. A higher calling. New York Times website. December 19, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/magazine/21hoffman-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman: heroin, syringes, prescription drugs found. KABC website. February 3, 2014. http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/entertainment&id=9417683.