Heroin use at a high and deaths follow


Photo courtesy Wikicommons by Psychonaught.

The apparent heroin overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has triggered talk about a massive resurgence of the drug and its toll.

The number of heroin users went from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 in 2012, according to a report by Discovery News.

The statistics come from the 2012 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and experts say they show the drug has jumped into all social-economic groups.

A big part of that is because people got addicted to prescription pain killers like oxycodone and then switched to heroin, which is much cheaper on the street.

Add to that the problem that dealers are now sometimes mixing heroin with fentanyl, a powerful pain killer.

That was blamed for a recent rash of deaths but police now say it was not involved in that of Hoffman.

The Discovery article notes that the drug naloxone can reverse the effects of heroin if administered in time. But people around those who overdose are often too slow to call for help, partly out of fear of arrest.

A bill introduced in the Missouri General Assembly would grant limited immunity for those who call 911 in such cases and for the overdose victims.

The 911 Good Samaritan Act is based on laws in other states. It is sponsored by Rep. Bryan Spencer, a Republican school teacher from suburban St. Louis who says he has known students who died from overdoses.

He told the Kansas City Star that the bill “is about saving lives and getting them the help they need to start healing.”

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