Celebrity Deaths Highlight Stark Reality: Heroin Use Is Surging

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The cause of Hollywood actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death has not yet been confirmed, but police believe that heroin played a role in it. Hoffman was found on his bathroom floor Sunday with a needle sticking out of his left arm. Following the Academy Award winning actor’s shocking fatality, more and more reports have come out regarding the prevalence of heroin as a white-collar drug, and it is clear that the usage of the narcotic is on the rise, especially in affluent suburban areas.

The LA Times reported Monday that health officials believe that more than 660,000 American used heroin in 2012, nearly double the figure from five years earlier, reflecting a surge in the drug’s use that mirrors its popularity of the 1970s and ’80s. Although Los Angeles has long harbored a large market for heroin on account of Mexican cartels pushing the drug across the Southwestern border, that distribution has spread across the country in recent years, and now more and more pain-pill addicts in the Northeast are getting a less-expensive high from the narcotics. The Times reports that overdoses and emergency room visits have surged across the country, while cases used to be largely reserved for the West Coast.

The interesting thing about the recent uptick in heroin use is that it is becoming an especially popular drug among the affluent suburbanites rather than the inner-city dwellers, reflecting a change in its primary users from before. Back in the 1970s, heroin was the drug of choice for celebrities and inner-city addicts, but experts say now that its popularity has spread out to the suburbs — and stayed there. Theodore J. Cicero, a professor of neuopharmacology at Washington University explained via the Times that, “This last year, we’ve seen a big uptick in heroin use. It’s becoming rapidly very popular. But now it’s becoming a rural and suburban issue rather than an urban issue.”

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