“Oh my God. What is it with Hollywood? Philip Seymour Hoffman, Corey Monteith, Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston . . .
“What is going on in Hollywood so that all these stars are overdosing?”
Questions asked (paraphrased here) of Joe Schrank in a recent interview shortly after Hoffman’s death. Joe is a recovery advocate, an addiction specialist and was featured in The Anonymous People. He had a great response: “If you were to follow accountants around with cameras, you would also see an addiction problem.”
Addiction respects no one’s economic status, but the media does
This post isn’t meant to be about Hoffman’s death, although like probably every other person in recovery, I feel immense sadness over the loss of another brilliant mind and gifted soul. This post is about the abject abhorrence I feel toward the media sharks that frenetically jumped into the story’s bloody waters.
It’s disgusting and makes me want to rip my coveted journalism degree off my office wall and heave it into the trash bin.
The inflamed story: A Hollywood star with scads of money–a junkie–found with a syringe hanging out of his arm and hundreds of heroin packets lying around his apartment.
Cue the viewership. Dial in the readership. News editors shouting from desks coast to coast (and probably around the world): “This story has legs folks, and will for some time, so get as much mileage out of it as you can!”
Are you sick of it yet? Are you tired of the sensationalized and impersonalized “reporting?” Do you find yourself wondering how the snuffed-out essence of the man who was Philip Seymour Hoffman got lost in the race for ratings?
I can’t stop thinking about it, about the apartment in New York where one moment there was a living being and the next moment his breath was simply gone.
The stigma of addiction
The Centers for Disease Control reports that 100 people die every day from a drug overdose. The number parallels a nearly 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of prescription painkillers, a precursor, if you will, to heroin.
Yes, big name celebrities are dying. But so many more are dying in cities like Columbus, OH, Albuquerque, NM, and Charlotte, NC.
Regular people, living regular lives, some trying to find recovery, others simply struggling to find themselves.
Time Magazine reported that Hoffman didn’t have to die. This sentence caught my eye: “The stigma of addiction and the lack of organized advocacy for affected people have been the biggest barriers to change.”
But what does “stigma of addiction” really mean? Some people say they don’t buy the whole addiction-is-a-disease story. They think people with addiction could quit if they really wanted to or just tried hard enough.
Yeah, tell that to the families of the recently deceased.
This article in The Fix does a nice job of explaining stigma: “Stigma impacts us all, both consciously and unconsciously, and is perhaps the single largest contributor to the mortality rate.”
Consider these eight points, and then go to the link for a full explanation:
- 1. People fail to seek treatment.
- 2. The medical profession fails to treat addicts properly.
- 3. The mental health profession ostracizes people with addictive disorders.
- 4. Funding for addiction treatment is discriminatory.
- 5. Addicts get sent to jail.
- 6. Even when people do get to treatment, stigmatization can continue and contribute to poor treatment outcomes.
- 7. People in recovery are always under suspicion.
- 8. They confront stigma-based roadblocks constantly
The good news is that thanks to recovery advocates like Joe Schrank, movies like The Anonymous People and campaigns like ManyFaces1Voice.org, as well as regular people like you and me, the tide is slowly shifting about attitudes toward addiction. We have a voice and our voices have power.
Plus, there are signs that some folks in Hollywood are also getting sick of the dramatic, minutia-driven media coverage about celebrity overdoses. Thank God! May the souls of all those lost rest peacefully knowing that there are tens of thousands of us determined to become an “organized advocacy for affected people.”
You’re welcome to join us. ManyFaces1Voice.
Photo courtesy of wallyir