Heroin: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death, Causing Deaths When Mixed with Fentanyl, and Sold in Happy Meals
After being clean for so many years and then relapsing and returning to rehab last year, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death from heroin is sadder than sad. As each heroin death hits the news, it seems harder to find anything new to say or to rail against. And so we remember the victims the best we can and say things like: He had so much yet to do, she was such a good person, he had such talent, she died too young, he fought so hard. And it never seems to be enough.
Seymour’s death came after two bits of other news about heroin, this time in Pennsylvania. Last month, CNNHealth was one of the sites reporting that 22 people died from fentanyl combined with heroin in the western part of the state. (In this case, criminals manufactured fentanyl and added it to heroin, but it sounded like pure fentanyl is also occasionally sold as heroin.)
Fentanyl is normally used to treat pain from cancer and is 10 to 100 times more potent than morphine, the base molecule in heroin, according to the article. The chief medical officer of Allegheny County in PA, which includes Pittsburgh, said it was sold in bags marked Theraflu, Bud Ice and Income Tax. Craig Sadler, an MBRC counselor, forwarded the link to this article to the MBRC staff and pointed out another danger in taking drugs: “An addict never really knows what they are putting in their body.”
Not long after that, ABCnews reported that in Pittsburgh proper, an employee was selling heroin from a McDonald’s drive-through window to buyers who said the code phrase, “I’d like to order a toy.” Police learned about the operation through an informant and were able to arrest the employee.
And heroin has been hidden and sold a million other ways. Just this month, a Vermont woman stopped for a driving violation was arrested when police found almost 700 bags of heroin hidden under her child’s car seat. Last month, airport customs officials in Berlin found heroin hidden in nine carpets from Iran.
Hoffman was no different than the 22 others who died from heroin in Pennsylvania, but he’s the one who garnered the personal publicity. I don’t pay much attention to celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, but he posted a message from Demi Lovato on Hoffman’s death that resonates, especially since she’s someone who has been to rehab (for cutting, among other issues):
“I wish more people would lose the stigma and treat addiction as the deadly and serious DISEASE that it is. Drugs are not something to glamorize in pop music or film to portray as harmless recreational fun. It’s not cute, “cool” or admireable. It’s … rare when people can predict their addiction and … you never know when too much is going to take their life …. Please spread the word so we can take the taboo out of discussing this illness and raising awareness to people of all ages. RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman.”
For an incisive L.A. Times article on Hoffman’s death and the prevalence of heroin, which quotes Aram Homampour, MBRC’s COO, go here.