Gillespie: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Heroin Problem Does Not Constitute a Crisis

A copy of a New York Times Magazine with a photo of movie actor Philip Seymour Hoffman on the cover in a memorial in front of his apartment building in New York City, on Feb. 3, 2014. Carlo Allegri / Reuters

 Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Nick Gillespie  writes:  The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has given rise to a massive outpouring of grief and sadness by his fans and admirers. It has also given rise to an equally massive outpouring of patently false and exaggerated stories about the increase in heroin use and the need to do something — anything! — about it. This is not just misguided but dangerous: High-profile drug deaths in the past have lead to major public policy mistakes — think mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines — that can take decades to correct.

[See also Alan Dershowitz: No, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Dealer Isn’t a Murderer]

Even before the inconclusive results of Hoffman’s autopsy were made public, news outlets such as MSNBC were already running stories about “America’s Heroin Problem,” “the rapidly growing crisis of heroin,” and quoting “law enforcementofficials [who] believe the spike in heroin use is driven by addicts becoming priced out of more expensive prescription opiate-based pain killers.”

Hoffman-Heroin-scene-2007

[See also VIDEO: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s (Extended) Drug Scene from Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”]

hoffman-streetsYet as my colleague at Reason, Jacob Sullum, was quick to document, the government statistics that track heroin use show absolutely no increase in regular use of the drug. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (the latest available), 0.1 percent of Americans ages 12 and older reported using the drug in the past month. That’s exactly the same percentage that used in 2002 and there has been no significant fluctuation in the intervening decade. The Monitoring the Future Study, which tracks behavior of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, shows annual use of heroin declining across the board from a decade ago.

[Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Deadly Brand of Heroin: ‘Ace of Spades’]

Much of the confusion stems from journalists and their sources using raw numbers without controlling for population growth or mistaking lifetime use for anything approaching a habit (both errors are on display in this “Journalist’s Resource” put out by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy).

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[VIDEO] Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Creepy Drug Scene from Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007)

The film’s title is taken from an Irish blessing:

“…May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead…”

Short version, 2 ms 24s. This is the Philip Seymour Hoffman heroin scene from Sidney Lumet‘s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007) It featues Andy Hansen, an accountant, played by Hoffman, making a drug buy in clandestine apartment in a Manhattan high rise. Then being injected, by the dealer, in a quiet bedroom. It’s an erie depiction of a troubled, defeated character, retreating to an exclusive, private, white-collar drug den, high above the city, in the middle of the afternoon…

Hoffman-Heroin-scene-2007

Film story summary from Internet Movie Database:

When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents’ jewelry store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father and one brother’s wife hurtling towards a shattering climax.

The longer version — 6 ms 55 s —  is here.

Pundit Planet Media – YouTube

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