When I was a young child in the 1960s, heroin use was always depicted in films as being a deadly addiction. Heroin users were shown living in the worst conditions, desperate people who would do anything for their next fix. It was a life that no one in their right mind would want. Those people who were in the entertainment industry who used heroin were shown as pathetic figures who wasted their talents and many times lost their life because they couldn’t resist the pull of the drug. The message was clear: Heroin kills.
In the 1980s, heroin users also had to worry about not only dying from the drug, but there was the new risk: contracting AIDS from shared needles.
Now, fifty years later from my childhood, heroin still kills, yet it seems that many have forgotten this.
It takes the death of well known actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman to brings this point to light. Sadly, many non-famous people are dying daily from heroin use but the media suddenly becomes concerned when a famous person dies from it. Likewise, New York City law enforcement promised quick action and again, I am sure many non-famous people have died in New York City from heroin but it isn’t until a high profile person dies does law enforcement promise to move quickly. Addiction can hit anyone, rich or poor, famous or not. We shouldn’t be any more shocked or saddened when a famous person dies from a drug overdose; it is a tragedy no matter who the addict.
In 2014, as in the 1960s, heroin still kills. Now it is being made even more powerful, sometimes laced with fentanyl to give an even more intense high. Heroin is also cheap and in many places easily available. But the message should be clear: heroin is an indiscriminate killer.
I feel much sympathy for the families of addicts who have lost a loved one to an addiction. One has to remember that while support is needed to help an addict break the cycle, sometimes even doing all you can do will not be enough to keep an addict from their drug of choice. In the case of heroin, it’s the addict who decides to put the needle in his/her arm. But we also must remember that drugs can be a powerful pull and some users may not have the ability to stay away once they start. I view it as a behavioral or psychological disease, which are sometimes hard to fix. It is a sad and tragic situation for everyone involved.
The message I took from my childhood was that heroin is a killer and no one in their right mind should even consider starting to use it. Fifty years later, the simple message still applies: heroin won’t kill you if you never start using.
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