Heroin Scourge

Philip Seymour Hoffman was a rumpled version of every man. An Oscar winner, who was called among the greatest actors of his time, this generation’s Marlon Brando.

Now he is dead.

Hoffman, 46, was found by a worried friend on Sunday in a Greenwich Village apartment, a needle dangling from his arm, and surrounded by more than 60 bags of heroin, some empty.

Some may see Hoffman’s death as another case of a celebrity and excess, using drugs like heroin as a crutch to cope with success, to help them get to the dark places they needed to go for their characters on the stage and screen. Perhaps there is more truth to that than not as there is no shortage of talented actors and musicians who have succumbed to drug addiction.

Hoffman’s death has again given experts in the field of drug addiction a stage to publicize the immensity of the heroin epidemic in America, which has grown in the past decade. Since 2002, the number of heroin overdose deaths has increased by 66 percent. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Survey on Drug Use, from 2007 to 2012, the number of people treated in emergency rooms in the U.S. for heroin overdoses spiked from just under 400,000 to nearly 700,000.

While high-profile deaths such as Hoffman’s garner publicity, the most common overdose deaths are of long-term users in their 30s or older, who have been using the drug daily. Unfortunately, Parkersburg has not escaped this scourge. We have seen an upswing in heroin useage, resulting in several arrests. Last August two deaths in Parkersburg were attributed to heroin.

Heroin is only part of the problem., especially in West Virginia. According to a recent study published last summer, the state leads the nation in prescription drug overdose deaths. And we haven’t evened mentioned the methamphetamine problem that has the Legislature considering making pseudoephedrine, a drug used in allergy medication, available only by prescription.

Law enforcement does its best, but police lack the resources to eliminate the problem completely.

And it is more than just a law enforcement problem. We all need to keep looking for answers.

Drugs affect more than the user. They come with a cost that society is forced to pay. Just saying no to drugs may still be the best defense, but it has not been enough to stop pain they have brought to families.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death may appear to be more tragic because he was so well known. Most people who die from drug overdoses are not famous, but their deaths are just as tragic.