The romanticizing of addiction can be seen through various outlets almost daily – outlets that are a part of daily routines. In 2005, three of four of the most popular rap songs mentioned drugs, alcohol, or tobacco use. Of the top 90 movies during the past two decades, seven of ten showed actors smoking. At the same time that addiction is glamorized, stars are plastered all over the media after being busted with drugs or arrested for a drunken incident.  Even more tragic are the faces of celebrities who have died of an overdose.

After being sober for over 20 years, an incredibly talented man relapsed and tragically is no longer with us. With this recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, these issues have come to light even more.  Instead of this just being another overdose or another celebrity dying from drugs, there are teachable moments that can come from this life that was cut short too soon.  The shock associated with a celebrity overdose death, such as Mr. Hoffman’s, will hopefully act as a warning to society about the undiscriminating power of addiction.

It is unfortunate that tragic incidences among the rich and famous must occur before high levels of attention is given to this vicious disease. Celebrities such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley, Heath Ledger, and Michael Jackson have all suffered from addiction and ultimately died. Attention from these deaths is widely covered immediately and then it seems to be forgotten by policy makers and those who can truly make a difference in producing assistance for those who battle addiction.

Overdose death is a horrific problem in the U.S. According to information produced for the 2013 International Overdose Awareness Day (August 31), there were 38,329 deaths in the U.S. caused by overdose in 2010.  For the last 11 years, these rates have steadily increased. For the third consecutive year, the number of drug related deaths in the country has been higher than those from car accidents.

The statistics found in other countries mirror that of the United States. Australia’s drug deaths far outnumber traffic fatalities; at least three Australians die daily from overdose. The same is true in the UK, Estonia, and Norway. In Scotland, fatalities rose from 365 to 438 from 2010 to 2011.

It is equally as devastating to look at the families affected by these deaths. The pain seen in the children of those who have passed is heartbreaking. One of the only comforting thoughts coming from this ended life would be knowing that someone else may not die – that the life was not ‘wasted’ after all. Using the death as a teaching lesson could save the life of another; their demise might benefit another addict.

There is not a safe way to use street drugs – they are illegal and from the street.  Social status, wealth, popularity, and job do not matter – people die unnecessarily from this disease. The bottom line to all of this: take tragic moments and use them as a teaching moment.

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