The recent overdose of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has served as a catalyst for coverage of the recent wave of bad heroin that has swept across the country and Hoffman isn’t the only one to have died from its use.
CNN noted that Maryland law enforcement reported that heroin tainted with fentanyl had claimed at least 37 lives since September. Another 22 cases were reported in Pittsburgh and other towns in western Pennsylvania.”
In January, about 22 people in western Pennsylvania died after using heroin that had been mixed with fentanyl, a drug used to treat cancer patients. The heroin mix was sold under such innocent sounding names as “Theraflu” and “Bud ice.”
Certainly heroin use has been around for decades, but two years ago a survey by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 467,000 Americans were “heroin-dependent,” a number that was double that of the survey from 2002.
Police across the nation are also reporting an uptick in the drug. Police in Delray Beach, Florida said that they had confiscated more heroin in the first two weeks of 2014 than they had in all of the last ten years put together.
One of the problems with heroin addiction is that it is cheap to buy. It can be as low as $6 a hit. It is also an easy drug to find. But it is also a very hard habit to kick.
The drug is also hitting small towns more than ever. In August, The Wall Street Journal said that much of this new wave of the drug is coming up from Mexico.
“Heroin seizures at the Southwest border, from Texas to California, ballooned to 1,989 kilograms in fiscal 2012 from 487 kilograms in 2008, according to figures from the Drug Enforcement Administration,” the Journal said.
Because it is so cheap to buy, users are younger, too.
In August of last year, Salon.com reviewed the the recent statistics pointing to a younger set of users.
“According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration,” Salon wrote, “initiations to heroin have increased 80 percent among 12- to 17-year-olds since 2002. More troublingly, young people are dying in greater numbers, too. In 1999, the number of fatal overdoses in young people between 15 and 24 was 198. Ten years later, it had risen to 510.”
The drug is growing outside the cities and hitting a younger class of user. And more are dying. It may not be officially an epidemic, but it sure is getting there.