Drugs & The Price of Fame: A Commentary

Scores of super-talented people who work in the entertainment industry are plagued with demons…those primarily of drugs and alcohol.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is yet another loss of a talented actor in the prime of his life and at the top of his game with an Oscar behind his belt and top directors seeking him out. One would imagine that finally reaching this pinnacle, this apex of stardom, would be invigorating, a moment so full satisfaction that all one can do is smile and dance a jig, not end in a moment of tragedy.

But, unfortunately, this is not true for many people who have become part of the limelight. It has sadly become the demise of many of our great creatives in a field where creating happiness for others is at the forefront of why they do what they do. And in fact, many of these types of folks are not happy themselves.

People were speculating and hoping Hoffman didn’t kill himself. Investigators are trying to piece together his final hours, but one must recognize that anytime one has bags of heroine in one’s apartment and countless syringes, one is probably intending to use them…on oneself. And as such, one must recognize that anytime one chooses to inject oneself with heroine, one runs the risk of losing one’s life. There is no guarantee that using that particular time might not be one’s last.

Please do not take me as unfeeling with regards to this; in fact, I find it quite sad and disturbing. I would prefer that these creative folks choose to live so we can enjoy their work a little longer. The realization must occur that drugs probably won’t be the thing that allow one to have a long, satisfying, fulfilling career. But an addiction is an addiction, and only the strong will survive it.

Of course, there are exceptions we can examine. Many have come back from addictions and alcohol-related problems. Folks like Keith Urban, Drew Barrymore, and even talented Robert Downey Jr. beat the odds, made amazing comebacks, and have seen incredible boons in their careers. Downey, in particular, beat the odds when everyone was counting him out. Justin Bieber’s troubles make you worried for him, Michael Jackson’s and Heath Ledger’s prescription concoctions cost them their lives, and we could all see what was happening to Whitney Houston, but she was never quite able to get off that train.

I am left scratching my head. How many more talented people do we have to lose to understand how devastating a drug like heroine can be? The price for stardom can be so high, and it leaves me wondering if it’s worth it.


  • Jack Flacco

    This really was a tragic loss as I remember Heath Ledger’s death, which happened in and around the same time of year as well. Albeit, Ledger died of prescription drugs, but it’s the cause that kills the victim, not the drugs. The drugs is the instrument. Anyone who works in the creative arts industry knows actors and actresses have to always be “on”. They shoot early in the mornings to late into the evenings. Hoffman, for instance, started his day with a four-shot expresso. The most I’ve ever done was two and my heart would be wanting to rip out of my chest! But because their circadian rhythm is so out of whack, they need other means to get to sleep (or stay awake, for that matter). Ledger averaged two hours sleep–if that. I’ve been there. I know what two-hours sleep a night for months feels like. It’s not a pretty sight. Thankfully, in my case I didn’t go on any meds to keep me “normal”. Nevertheless, my heart goes out for these folks and I really do pray for their families.

    • Steph's Scribe/Stephanie Verni

      Me, too, with regards to sleeping. I was having real troubles a few years ago with sleeping, and it turned out to be anxiety because I get migraine headaches, and I would go to bed worried that in the morning I’d wake up with a migraine. Luckily, I have good doctors who have helped me tremendously. I just think that it’s hit the point where you wonder who isn’t on any drugs and who isn’t drinking. It makes me never want to be famous, I can tell you that. Too much pressure and too much limelight. Thanks for your comments, Jack. I agree with you.

  • Anonymous

    It is incredibly sad that heroin has become the drug of choice for many. I thought it was a select few, here and there, turns out, heroin is just coming into the light now just how many people are addicted to hard core drugs. The line to IV drug use was not one my generation would cross, sadly, this has changed. And taken the life of so many, and not just the ones who die.

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