Though the first autopsy proved inconclusive, let’s assume that Philip Seymour Hoffman did in fact die from a lethal heroin overdose. Let’s choose to believe that even the most overwrought of his epitaphs get one thing right: that one of the greatest actors of his generation had demons, and that self-medication shut them up.
It’s a compelling narrative, though not an especially new one. Maybe there’s a quiet edge of schadenfreude to the expectation that our geniuses be haunted: would we view the canons of Joplin, Morrison, and Belushi with the same awe and appreciation if we hadn’t been led to believe that that which killed them—heroin, those three and so many others—was a necessary weapon against the wellspring of inner tragedy or whatnot that had made their art so palatable in the first place?
“Nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium,” Thomas De Quincey writes in his 1821 Confessions of an Opium-Eater, “Its pleasures even are of a grave and solemn complexion.” Confessions is De Quincey’s autobiographical account of his addiction to laudanum, a particularly potent narcotic derived, like the powder found in the bags strewn across Hoffman’s Greenwich Village office-cum-personal-apartment-cum-presumed-escape-den, from the flower of the opium poppy.
Read more. [Image: MPV_51/Wikimedia]
Now that the holidays have come and gone, it’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Did I really need to eat the whole box of chocolates?” If you did it in one sitting, you may suffer from Binge Eating Disorder, a newly-sanctioned psychiatric diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-V by the American Psychiatric Association. But even if you ate the box over several sittings, you might still suffer from its more controversial cousin—Food Addiction, not yet included in the DSM-V.
There’s been a lot of heat about food addiction, but little light. None other than Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, has spoken out in favor of the diagnosis. Yet the psychiatric and the scientific communities have been slow to get on the bandwagon. Many scientists eschew the diagnosis while others embrace it. Not surprisingly, the food industry has largely dismissed the notion. No one argues that food isn’t pleasurable, or even that food doesn’t activate the “reward center” of the brain. But can food truly be addictive? In the same way that alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs are?
My earliest memories are of comic books, and of my father. He’d bring me to this little bar called The Dead End in Fox River Grove, where I would sit quietly in the corner, going over the pages of the same few comics again and again, looking for new details in the stories and the art. On the drive home, I recall the car swerving. I also recall him hitting me, throwing me to the ground.
The first comic books I bought on my own were a stack of Iron Mans from a little shop not far from the one-bedroom apartment I shared with my mother. From time to time, I’d add to this collection, shepherding and obsessing over it like only a five-year-old could, spreading it out on the pullout sofa I slept on. I constantly pleaded with my mom to buy more comics. Sensibly, she usually said no. When she did say yes, I always picked Iron Man.
As with the Robert Downey Jr. film adaptations, the original Iron Man character is defined as much by his intellect or technology as by personal troubles. Starting in 1978, with issue No. 120, in a story arc known as “Demon in a Bottle,” David Michelinie, John Romita Jr., and Bob Layton took Tony Stark’s billionaire playboy attitude and added the specter of alcoholism. The story begins with Stark flying first-class, pondering his life as he asks the stewardess for a fourth martini. When questioned by her, he rationalizes that he’s is drinking for two men, his civilian persona and his costumed identity.
Read more. [Image: Bob Layton/Wikimedia Commons]
Three guys died when I was at the halfway house: Chris, Arturo, and Luke. They all died right after I left in pretty quick succession. Each one hurt like a motherfucker.
I haven’t been to war, so I can’t comment on what that experience is like, but people who go through rehab or a halfway house walk a tough road together and not all of them make it. We knew we faced a powerful adversary that demanded respect. Unlike combat, the adversary was inside of us.
Chris was the ﬁrst of my friends to die. He was a “rock star” and had been in a band whose videos I’d watched on MTV in the ’80s. He was the prototypical rock dude; tall, incredibly skinny, with long dark hair and puffy bangs. When he checked into the halfway house, he had a big abscess on his arm from where he’d gotten infected shooting up speedballs. Speedballs! Coke and heroin shot into your arm—the shit that killed John Belushi. I am laughing thinking about it; who in the fuck does that unless they are fully 100 percent at peace with dying at ANY moment?
Read more. [Image: Jade Sadeghian/flickr]
In the first episode of our eclectic new video series If Our Bodies Could Talk, James Hamblin, M.D., explains the long history of humanity’s favorite psychoactive substance.
Research has shown that beating addiction is ultimately about regarding addicts as people who can rationally choose.
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A haunting documentary about a West Virginia town plagued by painkiller addiction.
When the American psychologist Wayne Oates died in 1999, The New York Times began his obituary by noting two facts. First, the man had authored an astonishing 57 books. Second—and presumably not coincidentally—he had invented the word workaholic. Oates coined the now-ubiquitous term in a 1968 essay, in which he confessed that his own addiction to industriousness had been a disorder akin to substance abuse. Of course, he acknowledged, workaholism is much more socially respectable than drinking a fifth a day—more the sort of personality trait that might help someone, say, earn an obit in the paper of record.
What, precisely, qualifies someone as a workaholic? There’s still no single accepted medical definition.
Read more. [Image: Cristiana Couceiro]
Is Anthony Weiner’s behavior an “addiction” to sexting, or something more psychologically defining and pervasive?
Read more. [Image: Herobuilders.com/AP]
Leaning over a tiny wooden table, dressed in a shapeless gray-green prison uniform, she described her first encounter with him. “I was scared,” she said. “Why should I open up? But after Chris posted my picture on the Internet, I felt amazing. People commented and made me feel like I could accomplish a lot. After that, they knew my pain.”
See more. [Images: Chris Arnade]