Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Last Drug

The overdose death of actor Philip Hoffman surprised me. I didn’t know he was a heavy drug user. I don’t pay much attention to the constant din of celebrity news the so-called news channels force-feed us these days, so I’m not up on which star is in rehab, out of rehab, or going to rehab.


I really liked his acting, and many of the characters he played, from the fun-loving young weather scientist in “Twister” to the tabloid reporter in “Red Dragon” to the CIA Case Officer in “Charlie Wilson’s War”. These diverse and memorable roles display to me his tremendous depth and range as a character actor.


A couple weeks ago I did a story (for my day-job as a producer for Public News Service) about the latest spike in heroin deaths in Wisconsin. I talked to the agent-in-charge of the Department of Justice’s anti-drug effort, and he confirmed for me – again – that heroin is “the last drug”.   Once you are hooked on heroin, the odds are really strong that your days are numbered and your life is essentially over.


The term “the last drug” is not mine; many years ago, in a former life as a news anchor, I visited with a couple of hardened drug cops who were in the cavernous main foyer of the radio stations where I worked. They had a drug-dog with them – a Belgian Malinois (Shepherd) – and were waiting to do a live shot with Johnny Danger on the JJO morning show to try and raise more money for K-9 units. I visited with the two cops for a moment; I asked what the latest scourge was, and they quickly said “heroin”.


This was at least ten years ago.


The two cops talked about how so many people who are hooked on the drug want desperately to get off it; how they hate what it did to their lives; how much they wish they’d never tried it; how little room there was in treatment programs for heroin addicts. “We can get you in next spring” was a typical response to a plea to enter a heroin rehab program.


Fast forward ten years to this past January 23rd, when I did the story with the DOJ's SAIC about heroin. He said the same things.  (The story is here.) Heroin is the last drug you get hooked on.  It seems very little has changed in the decade since I had the brief chat with a couple hard-edged local narcotics cops. Still the worst of the scores of things you can get hooked on; still apparently the most addictive; still nowhere near enough resources to help people who are on it and want to get off it.


Still taking the lives of anonymous addicts and famous stars.


Still the last drug.


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