• Lost your password?
  • Or, login with:
  • New User? Sign up here!

Retrieve Password


Get involved in the conversation.

Walter Armstrong Walter Armstrong

Podcast: Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Reality of Using Heroin Alone

3 Substance


When Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose in January, he was alone in his apartment. The media made a big deal of this. For one thing, had he not been alone, he may have received medical help and survived. But there was also a fixed assumption in the coverage that because he was shooting heroin alone, he was miserable, tortured, wrestling with demons—definitely not partying.

Talk to current or former heroin users, however, and you will quickly realize that this assumption is based in bias rather than reality. Hoffman, by most accounts, was not exactly on top of the world in the months before his death. But as Allan Clear, the executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, and Ro Giuliano, the founder of the San Francisco Needle Exchange, explain in this podcast, the fact that Hoffman was alone and doing drugs is not necessarily a cause or even a symptom of his trouble.

“Maybe he just wanted to get good and high, and enjoy himself, and feel pleasure,” says Giuliano. Having a few drinks or smoking a joint or, for that matter, doing anything that makes you feel good when you have some time to yourself—that seems perfectly normal, she says. But being alone and shooting heroin? Most people see that as pathological.

Looking at the details of his death in this light reveals just how normal Hoffman’s thinking may have been, says Clear. “It was a Sunday, and he may have thought, ‘I have nothing I have to do today, and if I get high in the early morning, by early evening I’ll be able to get ready for Monday morning.’”

Understanding the motivations for different kinds of drug use is essential if we’re to make the messaging behind life-saving interventions more effective.

[Download the podcast here.]

Image by: Georges Biard via Wikimedia