News / USA

Hoffman Death Comes Amid Rise in Heroin Abuse, Trafficking

FILE - The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice released photo shows heroin seized from "Seaboard Pride" at Port of Miami, Florida.
FILE - The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the U.S. Department of Justice released photo shows heroin seized from "Seaboard Pride" at Port of Miami, Florida.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
The apparent heroin overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman comes amid a sharp rise in trafficking of the illegal narcotic across the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years and growing abuse of the drug nationwide, federal officials said on Monday.
 
The increasing levels of U.S. heroin use, which has reached epidemic proportions during the past five years, stems from a corresponding spike in abuse of prescription opiate-based painkillers, such as oxycodone, Drug Enforcement Administration officials said.
 
Many individuals who start out abusing oxycodone turn eventually to heroin as they build up a tolerance to the pain pills and find that they can buy heroin far more cheaply than prescription medications on the black market, the officials said.
 
"Oxy is much more expensive to get than heroin," said Sarah Pullen, a special DEA agent in Los Angeles. "Prescription drug abuse really took hold about 10 years ago, and about five years ago, we really started to see heroin abuse pick up."
 
The amount of heroin seized annually along America's Southwestern border has increased nearly four-fold between 2008 and 2012, from 558.8 kg (1,232 lb) to 2,091 kg (4,610 lb) per year, a sign that smuggling operations are on the rise, the DEA said.
 
Ninety-five percent of the heroin smuggled into the United States originates in South America, much of it in Mexico, the agency said.
 
Meanwhile, fatal heroin overdoses have increased 45 percent from 2006 to 2010, with 3,038 such deaths reported that year, and numbers are believed to still be on the rise, the agency said.
 
Possible reasons cited for the rise in heroin deaths include a general increase in abuse of the drug, an increase in the availability of high-purity heroin at the street level, and a growing number of people using the narcotic at a younger age.
 
Fentanyl-laced heroin

Authorities in the Northeast said they have seen a rash of fatal overdoses in recent months attributed to a deadly brand of heroin laced with fentanyl, an opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.
 
Law enforcement sources told Reuters investigators were trying to determine whether the heroin that is suspected of killing Hoffman, 46, might have been laced with fentanyl.
 
A memorial for movie actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is displayed in front of his apartment building in New York, Feb. 3, 2014.A memorial for movie actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is displayed in front of his apartment building in New York, Feb. 3, 2014.
x
A memorial for movie actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is displayed in front of his apartment building in New York, Feb. 3, 2014.
A memorial for movie actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is displayed in front of his apartment building in New York, Feb. 3, 2014.
The Oscar-winning actor, who had a history of substance abuse, was found dead in the bathroom of his Manhattan apartment on Sunday, with a syringe stuck in his arm. New York City police sources familiar with the case said 50 small bags of what appeared to be heroin were found in his home.
 
An autopsy of the actor's body was performed on Monday, but it was not known when results would be released.
 
Dr. Marvin Seppala, the chief medical officer at the Hazelden drug addiction treatment centers, said heroin and other opioids lend themselves to overdose and death because they directly act on the parts of the brain that control breathing.
 
Erin Mulvey, a DEA special agent in New York City, said additives such fentanyl are added to heroin at local distribution centers where pure heroin smuggled into the United States is processed and packaged for street sales.
 
She said 17 percent of all heroin seized by authorities in recent years has been confiscated in New York, a sign that the city is a major U.S. distribution hub for the drug.
 
The DEA had no nationwide data quantifying the incidence of overall heroin use independent of overdose deaths.
 
But the Los Angeles Times cited figures from a neuropharmacology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who said the percentage of addicts seeking treatment for heroin abuse at 150 drug treatment centers across the country has increased from about 10 percent in 2011-2012 to between 20 and 25 percent over the past year.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid