Opinion

Actor’s death shines light on heroin scourge

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG — Philip Seymour Hoffman was a rumpled version of every man. An Oscar winner, who was called among the greatest actors of his time, this generation’s Marlon Brando.

Now he is dead.

Hoffman, 46, was found by a worried friend on Sunday in a Greenwich Village apartment, a needle dangling from his arm, and surrounded by more than 60 bags of heroin, some empty.

Some may see Hoffman’s death as another case of a celebrity and excess, using drugs like heroin as a crutch to cope with success, to help them get to the dark places they needed to go for their characters on the stage and screen. Perhaps there is more truth to that than not as there is no shortage of talented actors and musicians who have succumbed to drug addiction.

Hoffman’s death has again given experts in the field of drug addiction a stage to publicize the immensity of the heroin epidemic in America, which has grown in the past decade. Since 2002, the number of heroin overdose deaths has increased by 66 percent. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Survey on Drug Use, from 2007 to 2012, the number of people treated in emergency rooms in the U.S. for heroin overdoses spiked from just under 400,000 to nearly 700,000.

While high-profile deaths such as Hoffman’s garner publicity, the most common overdose deaths are of long-term users in their 30s or older, who have been using the drug daily. Unfortunately, Parkersburg has not escaped this scourge…

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