Heroin Use, and Deaths, Rise – The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman from an Apparent Heroin Overdose Underscores the Drug’s Resurgence

“The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from an apparent heroin overdose underscores the drug’s resurgence in recent years, fueled by a growing supply from Latin America and a crackdown on prescription narcotics that has pushed addicts to seek old-fashioned alternatives.

The number of heroin users in the U.S. jumped almost 80% to an estimated 669,000 in 2012 from 373,000 in 2007, according to surveys by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Annual overdose deaths attributed to heroin hit 3,094 in 2010, the most recent data available, up 55% from 2000, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While heroin is diluted with other substances as it makes its way to the street, retail buyers often get a purer product than in decades past, said James Hunt, special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York division. While a dose of heroin in the 1980s might have been 5% pure, it is not uncommon to find a street bag today that is 50% pure, making it potentially more lethal, he said.

Moreover, heroin is sometimes combined with other dangerous drugs, including the synthetic opiate fentanyl. That combination has been blamed for a spate of deaths in recent months along the East Coast, including 37 in Maryland and 22 in Pennsylvania.”


For additional information see February 5 SAMHSA Blog Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Can Kill, But There Are Steps We Can Take to Save:  http://blog.samhsa.gov/2014/02/05/fentanyl-laced-heroin-can-kill-but-there-are-steps-we-can-take-to-save/

Source: Wall Street Journal – February 3, 2014, SAMHSA – February 5, 2014