“The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has given rise to a massive outpouring of grief and sadness from his fans and admirers. It has also given rise to an equally massive outpouring of patently false and exaggerated stories about the increase in heroin use and the need to do something — anything! — about it. This is not just misguided but dangerous. High-profile drug deaths in the past have lead to major public-policy mistakes — think mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines — that can take decades to correct.”
Questions For Consideration:
What can we learn from addiction and the shame associated with heroin use? How can an overdose be prevented and treated? What might account for a disconnect between “the rapidly growing crisis of heroin” as portrayed in the media and government statistics that show no increase in use of the drug? Has the intensive media coverage in the wake of Hoffman’s death helped or hurt our perceptions of heroin use and related public policy? Are there class and racial differences in how we view drug use? If so, does the media contribute to those differences?
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