With Hoffman's Death, A Look At Heroin Use

Originally published on February 4, 2014 11:35 am

The New York City medical examiner’s office is doing an autopsy today on the body of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The actor and father of three was found on Sunday in his Manhattan apartment, dead of an apparent heroin overdose.

Philadelphia social worker and former heroin addict Jeff Deeney writes about Hoffman’s death in a piece in The Atlantic:

Now that Hoffman is gone the one purpose his passing can offer is to bring into sharp focus the fact that overdose deaths are an uncontained, growing epidemic, and to more vigorously continue the discussion about what to do about it.

Deeney joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss that epidemic, and what should be done about it.

Deeney says that most heroin users start out as prescription drug abusers. However, prescription drugs are more expensive than heroin, and have been reformulated to be harder to abuse.

“The crackdown on prescription drug abuse is having this unintended consequence of creating more heroin users,” Deeney said.

This kind of news always chills recovering people to the bone.
– Jeff Deeney

Additionally, a batch of heroin laced with a powerful opioid called fentanyl has resulted in a number of deaths across the country.

“It’s really dangerous,” Deeney said. “It has more of a respiratory effect than heroin does. A lot of users actually don’t like it, because they say it has less of a euphoria.”

He adds though, that experienced users seek out the fentanyl-laced heroin precisely because it’s so potent — it provides the strongest high for the money.

Deeney says Hoffman’s death is particularly disturbing to people in recovery.

“This kind of news always chills recovering people to the bone,” Deeney said. “I’ve been clean 10 years, I just celebrated 10 years in my recovery. But, when you hear about somebody who had 23 years, who had it all: a beautiful family, this career, and gave then it up for a bag of dope and then turned up dead, it really hits you, and you wonder, ‘Am I doing enough, basically, to maintain my recovery?’”

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  • Jeff Deeney, social worker in Philadelphia, former heroin addict and contributor to The Atlantic. He tweets @jeff_deeney.
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