Questions about addiction to illegal hard drugs

Philip Seymour Hoffman was a son of privilege (father a big league Xerox exec and mother a judge). He was college educated and presumably at least of reasonable intelligence, he had a long term relationship with three kids and a career that couldn’t have been much better.

I’m not being judgmental when I say I can’t understand how somebody like him could pick up a needle and inject themselves with (or snort) heroin to begin with. How can intelligent people take that first snort/injection/pipe/whatever to begin with when, at least intellectually, EVERYBODY knows that cocaine/heroin/meth/etc. have destroyed enough lives, even those of strong willed and intelligent and successful people, to fill at very least a small nation?

I can understand an addiction to alcohol- it’s socially acceptable and there’s the gradual “invisible curtain” factor. I can understand smoking pot, but while it’s habit forming it’s not addictive. I’ve never had an alcohol or drug problem, but I was a smoker for more than 20 years and have no doubts I’m still addicted to tobacco; however, when I started smoking it was commonly seen and socially acceptable and something I’d grown up in the house with.
I’m not a particularly strong willed person. I had an extremely depressing teen years and early 20s during which I worked in hotels and restaurants and lived in low income neighborhoods and thus, because of all of these, had ample access to drugs, and I used to smoke marijuana irregularly (and responsibly), but I was never even for a minute tempted to take that first illegal “hard drug” bump. It was strictly because of what I’d read and seen with my own eyes and on TV and in movies; even having grown up in rural Alabama long before the Internet and even knowing that REEFER MADNESS was propaganda bullshit and even without a bad example of an addict in daily life I still knew that it really is true that “drugs are bad, m’kay?” and even at my lowest, even when I was suicidal a couple of times, it never remotely tempted me to use, because I knew that then I’d just be as fucked as I already was but with an illegal habit that could find me in prison or a flop house while offering no solution at all.

Again, I’m not judging or moralizing, but I honestly DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW PEOPLE START USING HARD ILLEGAL DRUGS. Is it a mental illness that lowers their judgment? Peer group? Weak will? Suicidal ideation? What is the best way to explain it?

Not rhetorical questions- I’m really trying to gain insight.

And if anybody else has questions about addiction, please feel free to add them.

I don’t know. My best friend in middle school’s dad had this happen. He was a college professor, married, two kids, Catholic. Somehow he got hooked on cocaine and was fired from his job. It was featured in their local paper and the mom divorced him. Eventually he got clean and they remarried and moved far away in shame. I knew him right after this happened and he seemed just like every other dorky dad. This family seemed more functional than most (it used to kind of bug me how my friend never had any conflict with her parents [and it wasn’t because they were permissive], and I did with mine). Total squares, still to this day.

Some people must just have a lot more going on in their heads than normally ever shows.

I’ve always wondered how it works too. I understand addiction, I was mildly addicted to caffeine for many years. What I don’t understand is why you’d get addicted to something that a) is really, really bad for you, and b) requires an investment of pain and tolerance before you can use it. That’s why I’ve never smoked. Why would I invest a few coughing fits into learning how to smoke? I’ve never been an alcohol drinker. One drink of hard liquor burns like hell. Why would I put in an effort to get used to that awfulness? They call it an acquired taste, but why acquire it?

The explanation I’ve heard for opiates is that they feel like you’re being hugged by God. I can see how that would be appealing to those in a bad place.

It would be interesting to know how many people were already under the influence of a mood/mind-altering drug before they tried their first dose of something stronger/illegal.

I think another factor is that the people can sometimes use drugs “socially” for a very long time–decades–and then suddenly it blossoms into an uncontrollable addiction. I don’t know if that happens with heroin, but I know it happens with coke.

The biggest gateway drug isn’t marijuana. It’s alcohol.

Anyone seen Qadgop the Mercotan?

One morning when I worked at the grocery store, my technician was called to an emergency meeting that she had to attend, and came back to tell us that one of the assistant managers had been caught embezzling from the safe. She was fired and arrested; the charges would be dropped if she paid the money back within a certain period of time. They were able to pin $8,000 on her, but the actual total was probably much, much higher. Long story made short: She had a cocaine addiction, and this was how she hid it from her husband and two teenage children. :frowning: She was a nice woman who was very good friends with one of the other managers, who honestly had no idea anything like that was going on.

Several months later, during the Christmas season, she applied for a job at an incoming call center in town, and was rejected because she would have had access to people’s credit card numbers.

I have heard exactly 2 thought processes:

“I’m strong enough to handle it; if it becomes a problem, I’ll quit” (gawd, our invincibility was amazing, wasn’t it?) - doug, last seen wandering off into a snow storm to spread the news of his Messiah Complex (speed).

“I don’t care how long I live - I want to experience EVERYTHING as long as I do live” - J. Joplin et al

I have no cite, but I’m guessing most opiate users do not start out IVing heroin. They start using pharmaceutical pills or syrups, like it and continue to do it until their tolerance has reached to the point it becomes financially impossible to continue unless they move on to heroin. Or they start out snorting heroin and go to IV use again once their tolerance increases.

So it is kind of desperation that makes them move to IVing, because they can’t get high anymore.

Similarly I bet most crack users start out with snorting a line of coke at a party, like it and then move on as tolerance rises. Meth users start with ritalin or diet pills or whatever.

Basically you just get exposed to something, it clicks with you, and it grows from there. Most cigarette smokers don’t start out smoking packs a day, they try a cig and it grows.

If the question is how can anyone be so stupid as to try a drug to begin with, eh some people run in social circles where that is normal or they are just curious naturally.

All true, but at some point it’s not just about “not being able to get high anymore,” it’s about “avoiding being dopesick” (suffering from withdrawal symptoms).

Most junkies are not lying when they say that once they are well into a habit, it’s not about getting high anymore, it’s about staying “well.”

Drugs are fun and they make you feel good, that’s why people are always going to use them. I don’t know why I’m not an addict but my brother was an addict who died from substance abuse at 50. The average heroin addict isn’t a street junkie but someone like PS Hoffman or Rush Limbaugh or a successful professional, intelligent, arrogant, convinced they have a personal power over the drug that sets them apart from others. Even the lowest junkie has a perversely high opinion of him/herself. I’ve seen people do incredible amounts of all kinds of dope so it’s always kind of amazing to me when someone manages to od. Like SRV used to say, don’t stay too long at the party…

I recently read Broken by William Cope Moyers (the son of journalist Bill Moyers). It’s an amazing book that gives some good insights into how a privileged young man from a good family, who had a number of high level jobs in journalism, including being a CNN producer, became addicted to crack cocaine. Moyers went through rehab four times before it took, and he gives a very honest portrayal of how he kept being drawn back in, even knowing the enormous cost.

That’s the answer for the OP. That’s why people do drugs. Drugs are fun.

There can be all kinds of reasons for ODing. Accidents happen for starters. Get something stronger or different then you planned on. Quit for a few months and lose your tolerance and then start back up with your old dose. Maybe you want to get REALLY high tonight so you do a little extra. Maybe you do some heroin but don’t take into account how much you had to drink at the party or forgot that you already shot up earlier that night. Or maybe your body just finally gives out on you.

ETA, seeing SpoilerVirgin’s post about Crack and high level jobs, that’s different then ‘drugs are fun’ but I’ll bet that the crack addiction, even WRT to the job, started out as ‘cocaine is fun’.

I would be interested to know how many kids who have legal prescriptions for Adderall or other stimulants move on to harder substances.

That’s sort of a loaded question. To be fair you’d have to ask some other questions.
Let’s start with your question
A)Did you have a legal prescription for Adderall or other stimulants and then moved on to harder substances? (what are you counting as being harder then Adderall? Adderall is basically pharmaceutical speed)

Here’s why that’s loaded, IMO
B)Did you do drugs before you were taking adderall?
C)Did you take adderall before you had a script for adderall?
D)Did you seek out a script for adderall?
E)If you were never on adderall would, in your opinion, have taken those harder substances anyways?

IOW if you’re trying to show that Adderall is a gateway drug, you have to keep in mind that some kids that took Adderall then moved on to harder drugs would have made their way to the harder drugs without the adderall in the middle. They just took it because it was there. It’s like asking 40 year old alcoholic who looooves whiskey if he wouldn’t be an alcoholic if his dad never kept beer in the house. He probably still be one, but maybe it would have taken him an extra year to get there.

Someone that’s not going to abuse drugs isn’t likely going to take adderall, as directed by a doctor, and then suddenly start hanging out in back alleys looking for meth or crack.

Id say tht most people who use hard drugs arent addicts; people like to party.

You answered your own question.

Add to this teenagers perceive themselves as indestructible, rebellious and smarter than their parents.

Right, but the OP’s point is that grown adults–people in their 40s and 50s, often very successful–also develop addictions to “hard drugs”.

Thing is, nobody dies or has their life destroyed from a first lil taste.

Yep. I know many people who will do a line if offered, but would never buy their own. And I know a few people who have tried things harder than coke but are not regular users.