Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death Highlights Heroin's Comeback

Whenever a celebrity dies of a drug overdose, the public response is often mixed. While most New Jerseyans mourned the tragic loss of talent and promise when actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead this past Sunday of a possible heroin overdose, many comments about his death have been sneering or judgmental. For whatever reason, celebrity drug addiction brings out the schadenfreude in many people. We feel sorry for a celebrity battling a serious illness like cancer, but when their illness is an addiction to a substance like heroin, we consider them morally weak.

Hoffman, 46, was found dead in his New York City apartment, lying on his bathroom floor with a syringe in his arm. He was surrounded with glassine bags which most likely contained heroin and possibly other drugs as well. The actor had always been candid about his habitual use of prescription painkillers and heroin. For decades, he had wavered between drug use and sobriety.

Hoffman’s death highlights a disturbing trend: Law enforcement officials and narcotics treatment professionals reportedly concur that heroin is making a comeback. The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s director notes that heroin used to be considered more of an inner city problem, but it’s spreading throughout new ages and demographics.

Part of the reason for this may be that prescription painkillers are becoming harder to obtain and are being formulated in new ways that discourage abuse. In addition, heroin is much cheaper than painkillers. Narcotic painkillers are falling out of fashion, as heroin use reaches crisis levels in many states. Health officials in Long Island warned that certain varieties of heroin have been found to be cut with fentanyl, a narcotic that is up to 100 times stronger than heroin. It is likely that some of this deadly heroin is on the streets in Morristown and throughout the Tri-State Area.

While drug use is legally a crime, it is also a serious, medically recognized illness that requires appropriate treatment. A key goal of any criminal defense attorney representing a drug user on drug possession charges is to demonstrate that medically treating their client would provide a greater benefit to society than putting them behind bars.

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