The death recently of Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from an apparent overdose of heroin illustrates that substance abuse can affect the most successful people in our society as easily as the residents of the tenements of New York City. Hoffman at the time of his death was reportedly earning $2 million per film and had an estimated net worth of $30 million.
Whether the drug is cocaine, alcohol, methamphetamines, heroin or nicotine, substance abuse is as much of a problem here — including the suburbs and rural areas — as in the inner-city neighborhoods of New York, Philadelphia or Detroit. And sometimes the physical signs of addiction are almost invisible, as they were with Hoffman.
The Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center reports that preventing addiction in a child works best when attention is paid to protective factors such as strong family ties, parental interest in their child’s life, clear parental expectations and consequences, success in school, strong bonds with community and church, and conventional wisdom about substance abuse.
Speaking personally, my own 30-year addiction to cigarettes was broken a decade ago by an unlikely source: A 5-year-old had adopted me as a friend and kept after me until I finally quit. She was too young to understand addiction, but she knew the difference between healthy and unhealthy. In the end, her conventional wisdom worked, and I am the living proof … with the operative word being living.
So be careful: That next conversation you have might actually save someone’s life.