The New York City Chief Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Philip Seymour Hoffman died from a speedball overdose—a combination of cocaine and opiates in a single syringe. Also in his system were benzodiazepines (Valium) and amphetamines.
Speedballs are a very dangerous mixture. They have already taken the lives of Chris Farley, John Belushi, baseball player Eric Show, River Phoenix, Mitch Hedberg, and other well-known celebrities. Although administered as euthanasia, King George V of England also died from a fatal dose of morphine and cocaine.
Still, despite these facts and this reputation, speedballing continues to kill addicts in astonishing numbers.
While these tragedies can be used to educate the public on the dangers of certain drugs, it is sad to say that many addicts either do not care, or treat such tragedies as a morbid endorsement.
The stark reality is that the majority of addicts know many of the dangers associated with using drugs. Sure, a smaller number are as well versed with the interactions various drugs can have, but addicts are not stupid. Deadly Drug A and Deadly Drug B never combine Perfectly Safe Drug C. In other words, we know it is dangerous. We just hope and assume that the worst will not come to pass.
It is bound to happen, though. We cannot behave that way and expect to go unscathed forever. We are well aware of that, too. Somewhere in our logic (or perhaps lack thereof), there is a disconnect between the very real and very known lethality of a drug, and the knowledge that one day, our number will be called.
In the case of opiates, throw in the hellacious withdrawal symptoms, and there is all the more incentive for us to essentially kid ourselves into thinking “this time will be like all the others.”
All it takes is one day—one miscalculation. Is it stupid? Sure. Does it make sense? No. Does it matter? Not really.
As an Orange County drug rehab center, we have seen and heard it all. There really is no “thinking” our way out of what we, as addicts, do. Therein lies the miracle of recovery.
Unfortunately for many, they do not get the chance. We are doing everything imaginable to turn that around. For those who do get the chance, there are often hiccups along the way. As a side note: no, relapse is not part of recovery. Relapse is the antithesis of recovery. If it helps convince an addict or alcoholic that he or she is truly without hope and cannot return to the drink or drug without dying, then so be it. Otherwise, though, it does not have anything to do with living a happy, functional life without those substances.
Case in point: Hoffman had 23 years of recovery before he went out. He tested the waters again, and his number was called. Tell him and his family that his death was part of his recovery.
Speedball Takes Hoffman
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