I have to confess that I did not recognize the name Philip Seymour Hoffman when I learned that he died from a heroin overdose. By all accounts he was a talented actor and beloved by many. Celebrity addictions is certainly nothing new as this link illustrates.

While many, like Hoffman sought recovery from time-to-time, many others do not or frequently relapse, the party lifestyle driving the destructive behavior. Perhaps Hoffman’s high-profile death will help with the understanding that heroin addiction is still a major problem and the Hollywood crowd will do some soul-searching.

Until fairly recently I had thought heroin not a major problem since it didn’t seem to be in the news as much as it was when the movie The French Connection (1971) put the drug on the front page.

Gene Hackman in The French Connection (1971) as "Popeye" Doyle. Hackman won an Academy Award for his performance.

Gene Hackman in The French Connection (1971) as “Popeye” Doyle. Hackman won an Academy Award for his performance.

What changed my view was listening to our local talk radio guy Mark Belling. Mark has mentioned on more than one occasion that heroin has made a comeback and is a popular drug of choice not only for the rich and famous but also for middle America and among the young. This link verifies Mr. Belling’s reporting.

I’ve done some addiction counseling (alcohol) and so was curious as to what heroin was all about and why it was particularly addicting. This link will give an overview but the following paragraph explains much as to why the drug is so addicting:

“Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, which is obtained from the opium poppy. It is a “downer” or depressant that affects the brain’s pleasure systems and interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain.”  The Partnership at Drugfree.org

Heroin is derived from opium. The plant from which it is made is a highly profitable cash crop in Afghanistan. From there it is exported to western Europe and the US. We might call it the Afghan Connection.

Heroin is derived from opium. The plant from which it is made is a highly profitable cash crop in Afghanistan. From there it is exported to western Europe and the US. We might call it the Afghan Connection.

A few years ago I had a surgery associated with a great deal of pain. For a short time I was on a morphine drip. I liked it.

I liked it because it interfered with my brain’s ability to perceive pain. It didn’t cure anything but I really didn’t care because it made me feel better, even a bit high which I liked too. Having been briefly on morphine and lesser pain meds over the years I clearly recognize the attraction of feeling better and getting a little high in the process. At the very least these drugs are an escape mechanism from reality whereby the user checks out and feels good.

Ed Welch a biblical counselor that I admire describes the addictive experience in terms of being a banquet. Imagine if you will your favorite expensive meal along with your favorite expensive wine along with your favorite  people. It’s a good time, even a great time and you wish you could do it more often because it’s so darn pleasurable.

The difference though between a great banquet with fine wine and a heroin addiction (or other addictions) is death. The desire to “do it” more often becomes a demand and the person will go to every length possible to feed the desire. In short order they are addicted and come to believe they cannot live without the substance that gives them what they most desire.

My idea of a fine banquet featuring a great cut of steak, a glass of fine Merlot and my wife, family or friends for great company!

My idea of a fine banquet featuring a great cut of steak, a glass of fine Merlot and my wife, family or friends for great company!

Welch notes is his excellent book, Addictions, A Banquet in the Grave that addictions of all sorts are choices that feel like diseases because the addicted believe they have no control over the addiction.

In biblical counseling circles addictions to various things, be it alcohol, drugs, pornography or even shopping is called idolatry. The idol is a false god that saves the user by giving the user the pleasure the user demands. The user believes they can control the idol but in the end the idol controls the user and it can as we’ve seen lead to physical death especially with the hard drugs.

The most popular addictions in America. Although the consequences may vary with each addiction the bottom line is they all represent destructive behavior.

The most popular addictions in America. Although the consequences may vary with each addiction the bottom line is they all represent destructive behavior.

Ed Welch in Addictions a Banquet in the Grave provides a viable alternative to the disease\recovery model that dominates our culture. He provides a genuine hope that rests on Jesus Christ. I highly recommend the book for anyone struggling with an addiction or if you know someone who is.

The book can be found at Amazon.

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