Ever since Trevor learned about the Hunger Games movies he has wanted to see them. As parents, exposing our nine-year old son to a storyline involving kids killing other kids is sick, no matter the reasons. But at some point I know he will see the films. When he does, he likely will ask many questions about the actors who play characters in the movies, because he likes to do this sort of thing. I look forward to reminding him of how Woody Harrelson was behind my father and I as we cleared customs from Costa Rica. But I am not sure what I will say about Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Addiction is among our most challenging public health problems. His untimely death due to a heroin overdose is not surprising given his history. While many can say he had all the resources at his disposal to address his problem and choose a different path, my own experience from decades in the field is that our system fails most who seek help. It provides care to less than 10% of those who struggle. Those who are lucky enough to get treatment, usually relapse because they receive acute care for a chronic problem. Add to this that rarely is underlying trauma treated, nor many evidence-based practices employed, and you can begin to understand why I am sad every time someone dies as a result of addiction. Our treatment system performs dismally, and it makes no difference how much money you have or how famous you happen to be.
Mr. Hoffman, along with many other celebrities that have lost their life from addiction, make headlines and we mourn for them. But every day 100 people die from drug overdose, more than in motor vehicle accidents in many states! Every person who dies, whether famous or not, is a member of our human community. While addiction is a wicked problem, we can and must improve care to those who suffer. What should we do? I have written about this extensively on my addiction blog and believe 5 Actions are the key to improving care.
Mr. Hoffman was a brilliant character actor and I will miss seeing him in movies. I hope his death leads to more discussion about addiction, treatment, and what we as a society need to do to overcome this significant public health challenge.