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Philip Seymour Hoffman and heroin: silent suicide

Written By | Feb 3, 2014

NEW YORK, February 3, 2014—Philip Seymour Hoffman probably had no clue he overdosed or an intent to die. Yet he, as so many others in the last 45 years, either scored too pure a quality of heroin or “booted” to much in one sitting. Even seasoned abusers get taken by surprise.

Unfortunately, they are unaware of the surprise and do not live to tell of it.

Heroin has been the drug of choice for many since the “feel good” 60s. Derived from morphine, it is usually mixed with inert or active ingredients (cut) to weaken its efficacy and increase profitability for pushers. Oftentimes, the buyer is unaware of the potency of what they purchase, as it often varies.

If the abuser is accustomed to injecting a specific amount and gets a purer product, they may readily overdose.

Heroin was first synthesized from morphine in 1874 and marketed as a cough syrup by Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Today, heroin is manufactured from opium poppies sourced in South America, Mexico and Afghanistan. Depending on the cut, heroin comes in powder form and is white, brown or “black tar,” a specific brand.

Heroin is sniffed, smoked and injected. Injection, involving the greatest potential of overdose, is known as “firing,” “pinning,” “booting” and “mainlining.”

Reports from news sources suggest Hoffman was found with a needle or “pin” in his arm, indicating he was unaware of his destiny. With a purer form of heroin, this position of “pin in arm” death is not uncommon.

Heroin is an extremely addictive drug and one of the most difficult to quit. The abuser can start exhibiting symptoms of withdrawal within just six hours after the last use. Many individuals addicted to heroin fear getting sick so much and have been using for so long, that they no longer get very high and instead use heroin ward off the severe effects of withdrawal.

Unlike alcohol and benzodiazepines, one will not potentially die from withdrawal, but the process is described as horrific.

Hoffman was as talented an actor as the profession has to offer, but reports indicate Hoffman had been fighting this demon for years.

Heroin has no friends. Heroin kills without discrimination.


Paul Mountjoy

Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based psychotherapist and writer.