What Killed PSH?

Philip Seymour Hoffman took this creepy photo not long before his death (Victoria Will/AP)

Philip Seymour Hoffman took this creepy photo not long before his death (Victoria Will/AP)

It was February 2nd when the body of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, was discovered in the bathroom of his New York City apartment, a syringe still stuck in his left arm. His tragic death was ruled an accident, but Friday the New York medical examiner’s office released their official cause of death: acute mixed drug intoxication.

Although this news may come as no surprise given the circumstances of Phil’s death—like the syringe—the combination of drugs he used during his final night on Earth just might: cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and benzodiazepines. And this after being clean for 23 years, falling off the wagon, completing a stint in rehab and then staying clean for almost another year now. What a shame.

When I first heard this “laundry list” of drugs—and please don’t take this the wrong way—I thought Phil had to be a complete idiot to let this happen. Here I was believing him to be an intelligent and stable guy—albeit with some bad habits and addictions, which we all suffer from in our own way—only to discover he was a brainless junkie with no self-control and no instincts toward self-preservation.

The truth, however, is that Phil was a sick man who took so many drugs—some legal and some not—that he built up a tolerance to them. The next time he used them, it took more to get him high, and more the time after that. In the medical field, this is referred to as stacking… and eventually, it will catch up with you.

Of course, I’m still struggling to understand why Phil chose this particular combination of substances. I get the heroin addiction and understand its effects to be mellow sedation, for lack of a better term. The benzodiazepines are nothing more than muscle relaxers used to treat anxiety, so they fall right in line with Lady H. And yes, I can see how this combination alone would be enough to do Phil in—and while he was shooting up “in the can,” no less.

We all know drugs and alcohol don't mix, but neither do drugs and more drugs! (Happy Hour/NHF)

We all know drugs and alcohol don’t mix, but neither do drugs and more drugs! (Happy Hour/NHF)


What confused me weren’t the depressants found in Phil’s system; it was the stimulants.  The medical examiner found both amphetamines and cocaine in the mix, which I’m having trouble explaining. It’s possible he used these to stay awake and enjoy his heroin buzz longer—staving off the sleep that likely comes quickly after combining heroin with Xanax. Aside from that, I have no idea.

All I know is that the world lost an incredible talent and another good person to drug addiction. I feel like Phil could have prevented this—since any intelligent person should know a combination of this many drugs could be deadly—but individuals deal with their addictions in very unique and personal ways. It is never “one size fits all,” but its effects are always the same: pain, suffering and death.

From one combination to another, I guess…

Posted on March 1, 2014, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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