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Philip Seymour Hoffman's three lessons for those of us who aren't celebs

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Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman died from apparent heroin overdose Feb.2, according to updated reports in the New York Times. Hoffman spoke candidly over the years about past struggles with drug addiction. His passing packs three valuable messages to counter the over-the-top behavior of pop-music teen star Justin Bieber for a generation of abusers of alcohol and other drugs.

1. Addiction is the only disease that convinces you that you don't have it. Regardless of how long the disease is in remission, without vigilance, it will convince a drinker or drug user he “can handle it” or “have just one.” Twelve-step groups refer to it as the “cunning, baffling and powerful” nature of substance use disorders. Control is an illusion.

2. There is treatment, but no cure, for addiction and the disease of alcoholism. Hoffman sought treatment at least two times. In 2006, he said in an interview with CBS-TV's “60 Minutes” that he had given up drugs and alcohol many years earlier, when he was 22. Last year he checked into a rehabilitation program for about 10 days after a reliance on prescription pills resulted in his turning again to heroin.

Hoffman died in a relapse. He had 23 years of continuous sobriety. He was sober longer than Bieber has been alive. Then the addiction and urge to use became more important than anything else in his life. Within a year he was dead.

3. Drugs – and alcohol is a drug – do not discriminate. They can kill, regardless of social status, religion, career, education, bank account, genes, tolerance, gender, size, race, ethnicity or marriage. And it isn't glamorous.

Hoffman died like many drug users. Alone. Discovered by a friend who found his body in the apartment and phoned police. FoxNews.com reports authorities are investigating whether Hoffman received a more potent type of heroin that's being blamed for numerous deaths over the past two weeks, first in the Pittsburgh area and later along the east coast. The substance combines heroin and fentanyl, an opiate used to soothe the pain of cancer patients, and is being blamed for dozens of deaths across the country. Average people. Not celebs.

Ego makes a person say, “That can't happen to me.” Hoffman's death is a tragic reminder that “Oh, yes it can.”

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