HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — Family, friends and fans of Philip Seymour Hoffman are reeling Sunday from the news of the 46-year-old actor’s death from an apparent drug overdose in New York City.
His passing has raised questions about his addiction, something he candidly struggled with for many years.
The Oscar-winning actor got clean in his early 20s and stayed sober for years. After relapsing, Hoffman checked himself into rehab last year.
Dr. Joseph Haraszti has treated many celebrities struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
“Heroin addiction or opiate addiction or alcohol addiction is a life-long struggle. It’s a life-long battle against that addiction,” the psychologist and addictionologist said.
Haraszti says he’s saddened by the actor’s death, but understands how the actor may have relapsed.
“Actually, a lot of people start using heroin because, in a sense, it’s easier to obtain and cheaper than prescription drugs,” the doctor said.
Haraszti says it’s possible Hoffman’s tolerance for the drug was lower than when he was actively using.
“If a person takes enough opiates, like heroin, they will stop breathing, which causes respiratory arrest, and that, in turn, progresses to cardiac arrest, which causes death,” Haraszti said. “I think [celebrities] are more susceptible to that because of the stress.”
Years, ago, Hoffman was speaking about his role in “Capote” — for which he won an Academy Award – when he acknowledged the intensity of his job: “It’s very challenging, but very satisfying.”
“Because [celebrities] are so visible, we see them, but [addiction] happens to a lot of people who are anonymous,” Haraszti said.
The doctor said that, even after long periods of sobriety, people who struggle with addiction can be one drink or drug away from possible death.