Celebrity death sheds light on addiction problem

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died Sunday of a heroin overdose. He died after a struggle with drugs, a struggle that many people know and some live with every day.

In the media, it seems that prominent stars are either met with scorn, like model Anna Nicole Smith, or surprise, like "Glee" star Cory Monteith. The reality is that addiction is a problem for many people, regardless of their stature in society. We're all people, prone to similar problems. According to a survey conducted in spring 2013 by the American College Health Association, 10.8 percent of ASU students had used marijuana and another 3 percent had used other illegal drugs within the 30 days prior to the assessment. This amounted to 13.8 percent of ASU students using illegal drugs, which is still lower than the 16.7 percent of students nationwide.



When we talk about a celebrity's death, we seldom talk about the real problem that people face. We don't talk about the people who addiction afflicts. We don't talk about college students prone to drug usage.

When we come to college, we have to be responsible for ourselves. It's a lot to handle for some people. Once addicted, there's a lifestyle for addicts, one that begets more addiction. It's a slippery slope and a path that some people go down.

Recently, an ASU recruiter was arrested on suspicion of narcotic drug and paraphernalia possession, only further demonstrating that this problem afflicts our community. According to ASU Wellness, 9.4 percent of students had used opioids not prescribed to them. Heroin is an opioid and a sedative that people get addicted to.

Hoffman used heroin, and many others in the U.S. struggle with similar problems in their own addictions. The Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University’s National Advisory Commission on Addiction Treatment studied addiction, presenting "a five-year study showing that addiction is a seriously underfunded and poorly understood area of public health. It also found that 90 percent of addicts never receive any form of treatment." In Arizona, the National Institutes of Health received $6.4 million to study drug addiction and abuse. Unfortunately, between 2009 and 2011, states cut $1.6 billion from mental health service budgets. We need to come together, after this latest death, to decide that addiction is a real problem that affects people in our communities. In an interview with Frontline on PBS, Alan I. Leshner, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, "Treatment is the constellation of the entire set of events that helps the individual to: (a) stop using drugs; (b) to return to society; (c) to deal with all of the cues that surround drug use and might trigger a relapse." This individualized approach, realizing the amount of strength that it takes to overcome an addiction, is the most reasonable. If people become addicted, it is important for them to know that there are resources available at ASU for them to get help. There are many therapists in Tempe alone who can help people addicted to drugs.

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