It is unclear whether the actor Philip Hoffman died from a straight overdose, or the newest problem to hit the Eastern seaboard: heroin cut with fentanyl-
For those of you who are wondering, fentanyl has a legitimate use as a pain management tool. It is also great for pain-free executions. Yes, American is that strange... murderers who rape, torture, and kill suddenly shrivel at the thought of a few minutes of pain at the end of their lives. I'm not necessarily advocating the death penalty, but rather pointing out how soft the average US inmate is these days.
However, there is an old observation that those who relapse after long periods of abstinence tend to quickly end up where they would have been had they never quit using to begin with. This has led most experts to theorize that the disease of addiction progresses even during recovery.
I'm not too sure it works that way. My sense is that, in the case of substance abuse, the age of the body plays a factor. You can't abuse things like you used and get away with it the way you could when you were young.
There's also the problem of old habits. If you worked your way up to a significant level of ingestion prior to sobriety, then you had a high tolerance when you stopped. That becomes your last memory of use. When users go back, out of habit they revert to their old usage, but without the tolerance levels built back up. This has happened even with caffeine at critical incidents, where non-coffee drinkers will start drinking coffee with the 'pros' and end up poisoned.
Hoffman had been in relapse for well over a year, and apparently had gone through a stint in rehab a year ago which didn't take. My sense is that the wildly unpredictable purity of street heroin finally caught up with him.
It is an old mistake: people assume that heroin is heroin, and that the last batch from the same dealer will be the same as the first. Nothing could be further from the truth. Heroin goes through lots of hands, and they all do their own thing to it.
If you are thinking about legalizing heroin, then what you are doing is opening up the market for more Hoffmans. That is, unless you want to start providing legal sales. However, since heroin is a narcotic, and other narcotics are governed by medical oversight, what you may inadvertently be doing is deepening the problem of prescription drug addiction.
Perhaps we want to make all drugs over-the-counter. People can supervise their own ingestion. That will be fun, won't it? Give an 18-year-old with a typical American upbringing an unlimited supply of Hydrocodone and see how long he lasts. That certainly will thin the herd.
Or, we can have addicts, or in this case, pre-addicts, go to the doctor and say, "Hi, I'd like to develop a heroin addiction, please." Then the doctor writes the prescription and the addict heads over to the Walmart Pharmacy counter for his introductory doses... after watching a five-minute training video.
So long as drugs are not regulated, we can expect plenty more deaths which legalization will not prevent. There will always be Hoffmans and Belushis and Farleys. They are the sad casualties of drugs' war on humanity.