My Own Heroin Story and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Overdose Death
|The Late Philip Seymour Hoffman|
Photo (cropped): Georges Biard (Wikipedia)
I have always wondered why seemingly intelligent people use heroin – why they even start, knowing full well the addictive qualities of this drug.
We can laugh and poke fun at Reefer Madness and its overblown hype regarding the addictive qualities of Mary Jane, but in the case of heroin, the hype, sadly, is all too true.
One hit of heroin can be instantly addictive. Yes, you read that correctly: instantly addictive.
That is not say that all heroin users become addicted the first time around, but the possibility should be enough for potential users to pause before shooting up.
Why is this drug so enticing? Wikipedia may offer an explanation: “...users report an intense rush, an acute transcendent state of euphoria” (Recreational Use). The flip side: tolerance for heroin builds up rapidly; full-blown addicts need a heroin fix just to feel normal, let alone a euphoric rush.
Back in the late 1960’s, I experimented with many different types of drugs: LSD, reefer, uppers, and some downers, but I stayed away from heroin. Simply stated, there were too many warnings on the streets of L.A. about heroin so that even hardcore users of other drugs tended to stay away.
Sadly, I still have a heroin story to tell; my (then) boyfriend’s experience with this personality-altering drug. In October 1968, when I first met Stoney, he was a bit of a bad boy who held a fairly responsible job at a “rock shop” in Silver Lake. This shop sold polished stones, stone and silver jewelry, specimens, petrified wood, stone spheres, etc. The shop also stocked incense, pipes, rolling papers, and hippie-style clothing, although the owner of the shop insisted that illegal drugs be kept off the premises, but Stoney always seemed to be holding, both on and off premises.
Stoney’s bad boy aura was a definite draw for me, a naive girl from Iowa who had had only one serious boyfriend before Stoney and no sexual experience.
Our relationship escalated, and we moved in together: Apartment #12 at 2001 Ivar St.
Stoney quickly began spiraling out of control, becoming mean and abusive and inviting questionable characters to our apartment; he would ingest about any drug offered to him.
He quit his job.
To support his growing drug use, he also began dealing LSD. While his behavior was troubling, it was not a deal breaker, at least not yet. Of course, when I look back, I realize just how much danger I was in by living with Stoney.
His physical and mental descent occurred between October 1968 and January 1969.
Before we moved in together, we had both agreed that we would never use heroin, given the negative skinny on the street and its overall bad reputation.
But, soon, Stoney reneged and found a dealer who had a connection.
I tried to talk him out of it; I may have been young and foolish and did some things that would make a parent blanch, but I wasn’t that stupid and had my boundaries, and heroin was one boundary I would have never crossed.
Stoney wouldn’t listen, and we found our way to a crash pad, a shooting gallery, filled with heroin addicts.
Here is my first person account:
This pad is about the dirtiest place I have ever seen, with mattresses – no sheets – all over the floor, and dirty spoons, needles, and moldy food tossed into corners and all over the floor.
Except for a blacklight, it is dark.
Three half-dressed and dirty children run amok; no one pays them any heed as they play with needles, spoons, and empty cellophane packets. Several people are tying rubber bands on their arms, tapping for veins, others are sticking themselves, yet others are laying around, in a stupor.
“I want to buy some Horse,” Stoney says to no one in particular.
Some skinny dude looks Stoney over. “You’re not a nark, are you?”
“Hell, no. I hate cops. Levi sent me.”
They make the deal and the seller shows us to a mattress, where a shivering woman in her late 20’s ties off her arm. A girl, about 10, taps her mother’s arm for a usable vein.
Stoney and I plop down next to this pair, and the dealer hands Stoney a cellophane packet, a spoon, and a needle.
The girl finds a pitiful vein in her mother’s arm, and sticks the needle in.
I try to act cool, but it’s shocking that a child is here and helping her mother shoot up.
The girl acts as if this is just ordinary life, like going to school and playing house with dolls, not helping an adult shoot up a powerful drug.
As the heroin hits the woman’s bloodstream, her eyelids grow heavy and she begins drooling.
This is fun? Really?
I understand weed, speed, and acid; although these drugs can be dangerous, there is a payoff at the end, definable highs and far out hallucinations, but I don’t see the heroin payoff. I just see a bunch of dirty, skinny, and hollow people laying about and drooling like senile old people – definitely at the end of their roads.
There are only two possibilities for them: sobriety or death.
And now Stoney wants to shoot up?
I watch as the child turns to Stoney and shows him how to cook the heroin and tie off his arm. She prepares the heroin, taps his arm, and injects him.
I watch in horror as Stoney’s eyelids droop and drool drops from the corners of his mouth.
I don’t want to be here, but I’m afraid to leave Stoney among these strangers.
I’m shocked and saddened by his sudden desire for heroin.
We stayed the night, and I watched over Stoney, just to make sure he didn’t overdose, given that the quality of street heroin varied – one never knew if a dose could stone or kill.
Stoney continued shooting up heroin; the man I started living with was not the same man I left; his decline was rapid, all within two months; he became gaunt, pale, and hollow.
Obviously, we went our separate ways; I don’t know what eventually happened to Stoney. Occasionally, I do a Google search, but I never find anything about him. I suspect that he’s dead, especially if he continued shooting heroin.
I stopped doing hard drugs altogether, although I continued to smoke weed (occasionally) until 1983.
By then, illegal drugs just stopped holding any appeal for me. I don’t even like over-the-counter meds, such as Tylenol. Ordinary pain pills make me sick, and I eventually threw away all my prescription pills.
And heroin continues to bewilder me, its appeal beyond my comprehension.
l would hope that any young person reading this would pause before experimenting with heroin or any other highly addictive drug, such as krokodil.
I’m not going to preach to anyone; in the end, people are responsible for their own choices – in my life, I have certainly made my share of dubious choices.
I’m just saying that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose death should cause potential drug users to think about the possible consequences of hard drug use.
In case you’re interested, I wrote a book about my own drug use and eventual incarceration into a mental institution: Memoir Madness.
Until next time...