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Death Of Philip Seymour Hoffman A Reminder Of Addiction Relapse

February 3, 2014, 10:09 PM by Sammi Bjelland

Death Of Philip Seymour Hoffman A Reminder Of Addiction Relapse

The passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman this weekend is a somber reminder of the dangers of drug addiction.

We talked to addiction professionals about drug relapse and what family and friends can do to help prevent it.

Hoffman had been sober for more than 20 years. But that didn't mean the Oscar-winning actor was immune from a relapse with drugs and alcohol.

"Addiction is a chronic disease and it's treatable and manageable. But it's something where relapse is just part of having the disease," Julie Schoolmeester said. 

Schoolmeester is Executive Director of Sioux Falls-based rehabilitation center Face It Together. She says addiction relapse is often seen as something to be ashamed of, but that shouldn't be the case.

"I can honestly tell you, I can't think of any person I ever met who just, they were done and that was it. Myself included. I think the first time I tried to quit, I got two and half, three months. But the interesting thing about relapse is that you can almost pick up exactly where you left off," Schoolmeester said. 

In 2012, Hoffman admitted himself into rehab after prescription medication led him to harder drugs, like heroin.

Dr. Rajesh Singh, an addiction expert at Sanford Behavioral Health, says this transition is very common.

"Some of the prescription drugs in fact go in the brain and act not exactly, but fairly similarly to some of the other medications or drugs that are abused by individuals. So the brain kind of falls into this pattern of wanting and craving for other drugs that are similar and increases the risk for relapse," Singh said. 

Singh says this is why it's important that people struggling with addiction are honest with their physicians, and that family members step-in to help.

"Like any other disease that this individual might have, addiction is a chronic disease and that you need to be supporting them throughout their lifetime," Singh said. 

"When someone relapses, it's not a moral failing. It's not that they're a bad person. It's not that they didn't try hard enough. It's just that they need to find another way to learn to manage the disease," Schoolmeester said.

You can learn more about overcoming addiction at Face it Together and Sanford Health Behavioral Center. 

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