Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Phillip & Peaches

I wrote this three months ago upon hearing about the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman:

Early Sunday morning Phillip Seymour Hoffman died with a syringe in his arm and empty packs of heroin nearby. Did he mean to overdose? Was it an accident? Was he aware of the possibility he would die and just didn't care? Was he depressed or was he celebrating? We will probably never know. A coroner will perform an autopsy and make conclusions that the media will dissect and people will chat about over Friday night drinks in between admiring haircuts and chastising hemlines. Just another name pronounced with finality.

Phillip's kids will grow up without a dad, perhaps defending him in the schoolyard because his was not an admirable death. But he did have a celebrated life. To most of us he had it all; an acting career, three beautiful children, and recognition of his talent and hard work. From a young age he also had heroin, and as it so often does, heroin won in the end.

I stopped writing because I didn't have the words to express the profound disappointment at another senseless death. Of course I did not know Phillip but his performances were so fiercely intelligent, truthful and raw that I felt like I knew him. I started to write this as an appeal to educate people about the dangers of drugs and express my concern that drug education is not being used the right way.

A week earlier an 18 year old colleague talked to me about drug use in her group of friends. She was surprised that a few scary experiences (one of which had just occurred the previous weekend) didn't seem to deter them. I asked about the drug education she received at school and she said it was pretty simple, the 'just say no' mantra. For those that like to challenge and explore this isn't enough. Education needs to be more about consequences. When I googled this there actually are some fantastic resources for teachers, but are teachers using them? I actually really want to know the answer to this question.

I cannot count the number of times that pharmacotherapy (methadone) patients have expressed their anger at having to attend a Pharmacy most days to receive medication. It makes travel difficult or sometimes impossible and it is a constant reminder of a series of mistakes they made in their youth "I was sixteen you know, so f###ing stupid." What starts as a bit of fun at a party can become a long and slippery slope to addiction and related illness. Maybe if these guys had had a better level of education before they started using drugs, they may never have started.

Last week it was announced that heroin was implicated in Peaches Geldof's death and the police are launching a criminal investigation. The cynic in me wonders if every drug-related death triggers a hunt for the dealer. Where there is demand there will always be supply; is removing one celebrity drug-dealer from the market going to make a difference? And further to this, I am pondering lately whether drug education can make a difference.

Peaches lost her mum to heroin, she knew the risks but that didn't stop her drug use. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was an exceptionally intelligent man and had spoken about his recovery from addiction. He knew the risks too. I have close mates who have recovered from severe addictions. What is baffling to me is that in one breath they will tell you about the horrors of addiction and then in the next, speak with a level of fondness for the drug they were addicted to. It terrifies me.

I have no answers. I desperately wish I did. This plays on my mind- there is so much uncertainty in life; so many horrible, unavoidable illnesses and disasters that can take lives without warning. I want to stop mourning the lives of those taken by a few bad choices.

I realise people have strong feelings on this topic. What do you think?

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