How Ravers Pioneered the Drug Trend That Killed Philip Seymour Hoffman

When Karina moved to Miami Beach from Eastern Europe in 2007, she used no nicotine, no alcohol, no drugs, nothing. Although she'd had a problem in her midteens with booze and MDMA, the 22-year-old was determined to begin her new life in America clean and sober.

Drug deaths have surpassed automobile fatalities and gun homicides.

Soon after she arrived, however, she fell in with a crowd of hard-partying Russians and began drinking again. Before long, she started snorting cocaine to wake herself up when she drank too much vodka. But it was only when she met a group of local gay men who hung out at clubs that her drug use really took off.

Now Karina (not her real name) was doing not only coke but also molly, GHB, and the animal tranquilizer ketamine. Strangely, when she tried crystal meth for the first time, she fell asleep on the toilet and missed work. She was often seen on the dance floor wearing a fanny pack — which she dubbed "the crack pack" — containing not just drugs but also sugar packets, Pedialyte strips, and a banana that helped her ease the inevitable crash. Her friends called her "Dyson," after the vacuum cleaner, because of her ability to suck up large amounts of cocaine. Still, she remained functional — she held down a demanding day job as a computer programmer that often involved 12- to 14-hour shifts. And she never took drugs at work.

Hoffman succumbed to a lethal mix.
Columbia Pictures
Hoffman succumbed to a lethal mix.

But then a couple of her comrades became addicted, and others lost their jobs. She found that the older she got, the longer it took to recover from drug binges. Today she restricts herself to alcohol and cocaine, but, she admits, even that's difficult, especially given the environment. "It's hard not to take drugs living in South Beach," she says in heavily accented English. "Different types of drugs are everywhere, and people share them all the time. This is not a town where it's easy to be straight-edged."

So-called polydrug use — mixing various street drugs and/or prescription drugs either sequentially or simultaneously — will probably be in evidence this week as Winter Music Conference and then Ultra Music Festival hit Miami. Some of the estimated 300,000 people expected to attend the events might consume potentially dangerous drug cocktails while ignorant of the potential pitfalls. Just how dangerous was recently underscored by the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was discovered last month on the bathroom floor of his Greenwich Village townhouse with a needle stuck in his arm. What was initially reported as a suspected fatal heroin overdose turned out be a polydrug death involving not only heroin but also cocaine, amphetamine, and prescription tranquilizers. A combo of heroin and alcohol is bad enough. That's what killed Glee star Cory Monteith, who was found surrounded by empty champagne bottles and drug wrappers in a Vancouver hotel room last July. Combining heroin and cocaine — a "speedball" — is even worse. That's what killed comedian John Belushi. But two stimulants piled on top of two depressants? Reason columnist Jacob Sullum speculates the stimulants might have masked the effects of the depressants, causing Hoffman to take more heroin than usual.

Celebrities and electronic-music fans aren't the only ones consuming dangerous drug cocktails. Increasingly, ordinary consumers are turning to perilous polydrug use. In Florida, there were 117 heroin-related deaths in 2012 (the last year for which numbers are available), only one of which was heroin on its own, a single case in Sanford, according to the state medical examiner's office.

And it's not just heroin. In Miami, there wasn't a single cocaine-related death that didn't involve other substances. The most common ingredient found locally in fatal drug mixes is the prescription tranquilizer benzodiazepine (followed by alcohol, oxycodone, and cocaine), not surprising perhaps because in recent years Florida has stood at the epicenter of a massive wave of prescription drug abuse that only now is subsiding.

In 2009, James N. Hall, a drug epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University, conducted an analysis of 1,185 Florida oxycodone deaths in which the drug was considered to be the main cause. Seventy-two percent also had one or more benzodiazepines in their systems at the time of death, and 42 percent had at least one other opioid in addition to oxycodone.

On the national level, drug deaths have doubled in the past decade to surpass automobile fatalities and gun homicides as the leading cause of accidental death in America. The reason is not that more people are using drugs but that people are using more dangerous combinations. "Substance abuse in America has become more dangerous, more addictive, and more deadly than any other period in our lifetimes," says Hall, who recently warned of an "emerging heroin epidemic" in Florida.

The list of famous actors and musicians killed over the years by polydrug use is long. Jimi Hendrix died from barbiturates and alcohol. Janis Joplin expired from heroin and alcohol. Whitney Houston was killed by a toxic combo of alcohol, cocaine, Xanax, the antihistamine DBH, and a muscle relaxant. Chris Farley, River Phoenix, Alice in Chains' Layne Staley, and Philip Seymour Hoffman all died from mixing cocaine with heroin or morphine.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
13 comments
allie.angelo19
allie.angelo19

Yes, drug related deaths have risen immensely in the past decade, but this has nothing to do with ravers, parties, or ANYTHING you said in this article. This is a ridiculous and uneducated look at drugs and their effect on people. First of all, not everyone who abuses drugs becomes addicted and not everyone who uses drugs abuses them. Actual drug addicts are more likely to overdose because they're less cautious. (The differences between drug addiction, drug abuse, and plain recreational drug use are medically and scientifically proven) People have been mixing drugs since drugs were around, raves had nothing to do with it. There are a lot more drugs around these days and many of them are way more readily available than they were even five-ten years ago. The rising drug deaths and etc. are caused by 1-Increased access to drugs (drugs that were there before, but weren't AS available) 2-Lack of treatment centers and options for people struggling with drug addiction and other factors, but those are two of the main ones. It's so ridiculous to blame something like "raves" on drug deaths. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a drug addict, he'd said it himself many times before, drug addicts die. He didn't die because people do lots of drugs at raves. This is the most ridiculous and moronic article I've read about drug use and drug related deaths in a very long time, we've recently been making progress in the area of drug education, addiction education, and just overall understanding of drugs and drug use/abuse/addiction and articles like this take all of that a step backward. The fact is that this is an important topic that people need to be educated about, this article has made a mockery of that fact.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..................................i just don't understand why it's a GIVEN that drugs are abused by ALL when in fact it is typically an abusing group overall and an epidemic among those who cannot control their urges and are addicted and self-medicate to the point of killing themselves

the only commonality i see of celebrities is that they have resources to cover their abuse longer than the average commoner who runs out of money way before killing him/herself

basically there is no effective rehabilitation if indeed drugs have wired the brain in the formative early pre-teen years so that unfortunate person has to suffer in time-out their entire life

i actually don't see why more don't suicide earlier

psychonaut25
psychonaut25

Don't blame rave culture for the poor decisions of a few naive people who happen to attend a rave or two

james32937
james32937

"In just the last two years, small cohorts of heavy club drug users have been identified in London as well as other European cities, the United States, and, of course, South Beach."

And this is new news?

"have been identified"

And how is that, fingerprinted?

mt4218
mt4218

"When Karina moved to Miami Beach from Eastern Europe in 2007, she used no nicotine, no alcohol, no drugs, nothing. Although she'd had a problem in her midteens with booze and MDMA"

So alcohol and MDMA aka MOLLY aka the active ingredient in ecstasy are not drugs? Exceptional writing as usual by the Miami New Times editorial staff. Its the opening sentence for christ sake! lol

james32937
james32937

"It's hard not to take drugs living in South Beach," she says

It could be anywhere.  Schools, the Burbs, not just SOBE.

james32937
james32937

"It's hard not to take drugs living in South Beach," she says

And where is it easy?

rubuskubus
rubuskubus

The point that alcohol isn't considered a "drug" is extremely important and dangerous. I've been a junkie for 12 years, yet I've only OD'd once, on a mix of alcohol, benzos and heroin.

anonjunkie
anonjunkie

Mixing stimulants with downers is just the worst idea ever. Whoever does that deserves to OD. 

fxowen
fxowen

@mt4218  Try quoting the full sentence: "Although she'd had a problem in her midteens with booze and MDMA, the 22-year-old was determined to begin her new life in America clean and sober." In other words she was clean by the time she came to America. It's not New Times' problem you don't know how to read.

Chris833
Chris833

@james32937  I think it's easy not to take drugs almost everywhere. The point is that, here, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to take drugs, mostly due to the fact that (not unlike fast food) one can find drugs everywhere here...easily.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...................what resources do you live on as a "junkie" ? @rubuskubus

allie.angelo19
allie.angelo19

@anonjunkie  Really? *deserves* to OD? You're disgusting. Nobody deserves to OD. How absolutely horrible, Jesus. Did it make you feel better about yourself making a mean, ridiculous comment online about people who have a problem dying? Either that or you're just extremely stupid and can't help being mean. It's always one of the two when somebody says something as cruel as that.

 
Miami Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...