“Another Dead Junkie…”

by Brandon

I’m gonna’ tell you up front, this isn’t one of my usual silly blogs. It is absolutely devoid of humor, but I feel compelled to post it because I’m seeing the word “junkie” show up far too often in regards to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s recent death. Addiction is an issue I feel very strongly about and my feelings on addiction have evolved significantly over the years.  I say “feelings” instead of “opinion” because addiction is an issue that hits me on a very emotional level.

Okay. First, I’m gonna’ address the word “junkie.”

I’ve seen a ton of people posting on social media sites calling Mr. Hoffman a junkie. Phrases like, “One more junkie gone. Live by the sword, die by the sword” are not at all uncommon.

Now, I’m not exactly a Philip Seymour Hoffman fan. I mean, the guy was a very good actor, but I couldn’t have told you his name before his death made the news. This blog isn’t about Mr. Hoffman.

It’s about addiction and it’s about the fact that many people seem to think the word “junkie” is justification to just shrug away the death of a human being.

To be clear, I’m not judging folks who use that word to describe addicts. I’ve used it myself. Not so long ago, I had a very harsh attitude toward addicts.

Well, I was wrong. Just like the people using it now, I was ignorant.

A “junkie” is nothing more than a derogatory term for a person with a disease. It’s no different than if we called a cancer patient a “rotter.”

I’m sure many of you would respond to that statement with something like, “Totally different. A cancer patient doesn’t choose to get cancer. Junkies choose their  fate.”

Well, I’m gonna’ have to call bullshit on that one. I’ve known many addicts in my life. People I love have died because of their addictions.

And I can tell you, unequivocally, not one of them chose to be a junkie.

They were all good, loving, caring people who happened to make one bad decision.

And none of those people deserved to die because of that single decision.

You see, that’s really the problem here. People are acting like addiction is some kind of lifestyle choice.

It is not.

It is a disease that begins with a single bad decision. Of course, I’m referring to the decision to do a drug for the first time.

This decision is usually made when they’re either very young or when they’re going through  a particularly troubling time in their lives.

Now, ask yourself this…

Would you want thousands upon thousands of people to act like you deserve to die because of one bad decision you made when you were either deeply troubled or just young and foolish?

Well, that’s exactly what’s happening with this whole addiction thing.

Mr. Hoffman made a bad decision when he was younger. Yes, that was a choice. Doing it that first time is obviously a choice.

But after that, his problem transitioned. Because of his one bad decision, he developed a deadly disease.

Acting like he deserved his fate is like telling someone they deserve malaria because they chose to go camping without using mosquito repellant.

Have we really become so callous as a society that we don’t care about the death of a human, just because that human made a mistake?

And here’s another bit of information you may or may not be aware of…

Most drug related deaths in this country are from drugs that were legally prescribed by a doctor.

Yeah. Someone is in pain, so they’re given a drug to help with that pain, then they become addicted to that drug. And once the addiction has set in, it’s not a matter of willpower.

It’s a disease.

And if they lose access to that drug, the addiction forces them to find other drugs that give the same feeling. Often, illegal drugs, like heroin.

When the tragedy of 9/11 happened, the people of this country reacted by standing together and mourning together. I remember the talk shows spending that first night just… mourning. The news mourned. Every live broadcast in America mourned that horrible tragedy.

And that was a good thing. It was what we all needed at the time.

Back to the present, here’s a statistic for you… in the next 30 days, addiction is going to claim more lives than the 9/11 tragedy claimed. And 30 days after that, it’ll happen again.

And what are we doing about those deaths? Are we rallying together? Are we supporting each other and keeping each other strong?

No.

We’re saying things like, “Another Junkie dead. Oh well. Live by the sword, die by the sword.”

I genuinely apologize for such a preachy blog this time, but like I said… this is an issue that hits me very close to home.

I really wish the people of this country would stand together and make a collective vow to stop this disease from killing our mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and children.

And I really wish we’d give the whole “junkie” thing a rest.

Thanks.

–Brandon


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

gpaulr February 7, 2014 at 8:38 AM

Nice perspective. I often find that a similar stance is taken by many thoughtless people in regards to those that commit suicide. Like drug addiction, the terms “selfish” and “uncaring” are attached to those that take their own lives… when the basis of the act is far more complex, deeper, traumatic, and painful. Thanks again for the eye-opening blog.

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Brandon February 7, 2014 at 9:57 AM

I totally agree with you on all of that, gpaulr.

Part of me thinks it might be because we – people – need villains to inspire us to action. We rallied after 9/11 because we had villains to blame. But with things like addiction, it’s much harder to find a villain to blame and attack… so we often make the victim into the villain just to give us a bad guy to rail against.
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