By State Representative, Leon D. Young
The high-profile death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, from a heroin overdose last February, literally shocked America.
His passing immediately prompted the question: How could an individual of Hoffman’s stature, who was perceived to have it all — wealth, fame and a highly-successful acting career, fall prey to the ravages of heroin?
The news of Seymour Hoffman’s death should be frightening to anyone fighting an addiction and to America in general.
After all, Hoffman had gotten himself sober when he was 22 and didn’t drink or use drugs for the next 23 years.
During that time, he won an Academy Award, was nominated for three more, and was widely cited as the most talented actor of his generation.
Then, one day in 2012, he began popping prescription pain pills.
And now he’s dead.
But, in truth, the death toll stemming from heroin-related overdoses is nothing new for communities of color in this country.
Heroin was once perceived as the plague that primarily haunted inner-city areas, but that perception has been drastically altered in recent years.
In 2013, 67 people died of heroin-related overdoses in Milwaukee County — a 34 percent increase from the prior year.
This number represents an increase of more than 600 percent from ten years ago.
Moreover, the deadly trend of fatal heroin overdoses is soaring both statewide and nationally, with no end in sight.
Many drug experts have suggested that alcohol and marijuana were the “gateway” drugs that lead to more serious drug dependency, but that reality is changing.
As we have seen with Seymour Hoffman and many others, prescription pain pills are the new gateway drug that spurs the use of more dangerous drugs – like heroin.
Lastly, in the case of addiction one thing is abundantly clear, regardless of how much time clean you have; relapsing is always as easy as moving your hand to your mouth.