nammi, Nurse, General Practice, 11:13AM Feb 6, 2014
Diane M. Goodman
I had another posting for this week, but after the recent (troubling) death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I wanted to provide a few thoughts on the rising problem of heroin addiction in this country.* The media coverage, while doing justice to the actor's brilliant contribution in the film industry, has been dismaying on the topic of drug addiction.
Multiple Hollywood producers, actors, and celebrities posted tweets and comments regarding the sudden and unexpected loss of another of their peers. While most were comments we could expect, one gave me pause for several hours.
To paraphrase one of the tweets, it was stated that for the gifted, the "noise" of everyday life may be too much.
I believe the comment, provided as a possible explanation for another death, bears further repetition.
For nurses that have dealt with drug-seeking or addicted patients, they realize the road to "cure" is extremely complicated and difficult. While legislators have been focusing on quick-fixes throughout the country (such as adding reversal agents to long-acting opioid preparations), the country has witnessed a rise in addicts reverting to heroin, a known killer. As Elijah Blue was purported to have expressed in an interview, while using heroin, he never intended to kill himself, but he always knew the risk.
For an actor to suddenly withdraw $1200 from an ATM (as reported by the media) the daily noise may have become deafening and insurmountable.
While I don't pretend to have the answers, nurses DO know that addiction is a complex process that has proved to be elusive even for experts. It isn't merely a Hollywood problem. The availability of heroin is on virtually every street corner in downtown USA.
Over several years, I provided care to many heroin and substance abuse addicts. The work was frustrating and filled with angst. One woman, beautiful, wealthy, and talented, did not want to hear supportive comments from caregivers. Anyone who hadn't tried the drug, she said, could not possibly hope to converse intelligently with her. I now believe she may have been adjusting an internal volume to a music that was far more soothing and primal than anything we were providing.
The biggest complaint I DO have is the way rehab is portrayed. Rehab has been portrayed by the media as a quick fix, similar to an influenza vaccine, or worse, a way to dodge prosecution if your behavior has broken a few laws. For nurses who have worked the ER's, the ICU's, and outpatient facilities over the years, we can't be so sublime.
While we may not yet understand the "noise" or the rhythm of the music, we have spent years striving to readjust the volume for those who are suffering. And now, it seems our work has been just begun...
*US Spike in Heroin Use, Washington Times, 2-3-2014