Heroin addiction became national and international news following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. For a week or so the dialogue expanded from Mr. Hoffman’s death to an epidemic of heroin addiction in rural, suburban and urban America. I was relieved that addiction and the fiercely hard work of recovery became the story and not one only of celebrity. I think this would have been important to Mr. Hoffman, too.
The current victims of heroin, according to the experts on the news, are predominantly white. Apparently white people are prescribed addictive pain killers that they cannot afford and find heroin dealers with $4 bags of death.
I lost my husband to an overdose of heroin and cocaine in 1993. My husband was black. He bought his heroin in Harlem where for decades this drug delivered nightmares upon countless lives. Addiction, when Charlie Parker died, did not make national and international news with explanations of the rampant spread of heroin throughout the black community. I am white, and I hope that someday we will leap as quickly to understand a problem in the communities of people of color as we do of whites.
For now I find consolation in the brilliant essays and Facebook posts and tweets written by recovering addicts. We know Mr. Hoffman was sober for twenty-two years and sponsored many recovering addicts. We know there is so much we don’t know. Now that his story is fading from the headlines, how can we keep the story alive?