Let’s ask ourselves this — before Philip Seymour Hoffman allegedly overdosed on heroin this Sunday, were we paying attention to the 37 lives that heroin claimed in Maryland in the last six months? What about the 22 cases of heroin overdose in Western Pennsylvania since September?
Over the past few days, the media has been buzzing around the news of Hoffman’s alleged heroin overdose on Sunday. At just 46 years old he was found dead with more than 60 bags of heroin among other prescription drugs in his Manhattan apartment.
Whether it is a celebrity overdosing with heroin or the young adults from the Town of Carver, charged with peddling heroin on Friday, heroin cases always seem to be attention grabbers in the news. Cases concerning cannabis and cocaine? Now those are easier on the ears.
With high-profile celebrities such as Janis Joplin, Coco Chanel, Jim Morrison and more recently Cory Monteith and Hoffman overdosing on heroin, one would think the rate at which it is being consumed would be stifled. Rather, in the past few years, rates have only increased.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 1995 and 2002, the number of teenagers in America who used heroin increased by 300 percent. In 2011, 4.2 million American teenagers said they have used heroin at some point in their lives. Additionally, police from Delray Beach in Florida reported they seized more heroin since Jan. 1 alone than they have in the past 10 years combined.
The high demand of heroin can be boiled down to two factors — it is cheap and it is potent. The average bag of heroin goes for as low as $6 on the streets. And given that it’s an opioid synthesized from morphine, the effect is rapid and extreme.
People don’t just take heroin so they can garner up a little bit more confidence and have some more fun at parties. Unlike ecstasy and cocaine, heroin is a “downer” and not a social drug by any means. Upon injection, the user enters a surge of euphoria that quickly turns into an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. And given its undetermined purity, there is no way for one to regulate the dosage of the drug they are ingesting. If marijuana is the gateway drug, then heroin is the drug right at the end of that gated path.
Not to jump to any assumptions, but Monteith and Hoffman probably didn’t plan on getting into heroin. But, at the same time, given the severity and magnitude of the drug, it is not an addiction that people just fall into either. Celebrities are in a great position of power and influence in today’s impressionable society to speak out against such social issues. Demi Lovato speaks about depression and Bono talks about AIDS. But who really talks about heroin?
Whenever we hear about heroin in the news, it is most likely related to an overdose. Compared to heroin, other drugs such as cocaine and crack seem like harmless uppers and socially accepted habits. Heroin, on the other hand, is taboo. Asking for help when it comes to heroin may not only be embarrassing, but considering the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, help is possibly undesired as well.
No matter how much we hear about heroin in the news when a celebrity is a user, there is a national discussion on the dangers of the drug. Just check out any major news outlet following the death of Hoffman, and you will be flooded with facts and statistics concerning the drug. Yet, regardless of this increased attention, there obviously hasn’t been any actual reform.
If the untimely death of a beloved “Gleek” and a 46-year-old Oscar winner won’t spark national change, then there’s not much else that will. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose claimed more lives than any other injury in 2010. So if we aren’t talking about Monteith’s and Hoffman’s death to set an example to the for the 4.2 million teenagers who use reported using heroin — then we should just leave the case alone and let their families mourn in private.