Hoffman's death puts spotlight on heroin abuse
THE apparent heroin-overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman comes amid growing abuse of the drug in the United States, officials said on Monday.
The increasing levels of heroin use in the country, 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 (DEA) officials said.
Many individuals who start out abusing oxycodone turn to heroin eventually as they build up a tolerance to the pain pills and find that they can buy heroin far more cheaply.
Ms Sarah Pullen, a special DEA agent in Los Angeles, said: "Prescription-drug abuse really took hold about 10 years ago and, about five years ago, we really started to see heroin abuse pick up."
Investigators are trying to determine whether the heroin suspected of killing Hoffman, 46, was laced with fentanyl, an opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin.