By Shirley Hawkins
Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, considered one of the finest actors of his generation, was found dead of a drug overdose in his Greenwich Village apartment on Sunday.
Hoffman, who won an Oscar in 2006 for his riveting portrayal as author Truman Capote in “Capote,” was found on the bathroom floor, a hypodermic needle stuck in his arm. Two dozen used syringes and five different types of prescription medication were found near his body.
Hoffman was scheduled to pick up his three children on Sunday, but he never arrived. Authorities say that approximately five empty heroin bags as well as 65 more bags that were still unused were found in his apartment along with six needles and prescription pills. Hoffman, who had publicly admitted that he struggled with drug addiction, was 46.
On the heels of Hoffman’s death, law enforcement reports that heroin addiction is on the rise nationwide. Drug addiction expert Dr. Joseph Haraszti stated that the number of heroin deaths increased by 250 percent between 1999 and 2009.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that initiations to heroin have increased by 80 percent among teens 12 to17.
The rise in heroin usage is particularly alarming in Southern California, where it has spread to suburban communities.
“Black tar” heroin was recently seized during a drug raid in Simi Valley, and high school counselors in Orange County have reported seeing a rise in heroin use among students.
“Almost every heroin addict that I deal with relapses at some point, even though we’ll get them into 90-day programs, yearlong programs where they’re doing residential programs,” L.A. County Sheriff Deputy Bill Velek told KABC news. “It becomes a lifelong struggle for them once they’ve started using.”
Drug experts say that people often start out using prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Percocet. But since they are expensive, people eventually turn to heroin, which is cheaper.
“Even though the physical withdrawal goes away after a short period of time, the psychological craving does not,” Dr. Haraszti pointed out.
Haraszti added that teens between the ages of 15 and 24 turn to heroin because they cannot afford to buy Oxycontin.
Law enforcement officials say parents should look for signs of heroin use like spoons, needles and aluminum foil.
“When you open it up it has the burn marks on it, which is the evidence of smoking the heroin,” said Velek. “Why would your child have a roll of foil in their bedroom or in their car? There is no need to have a roll of foil just in case you need to wrap something up.”