Heroin: Where Is the Epidemic?

Philip Seymour Hoffman, an American actor, film director, and winner of the “Oscar” and “Golden Globe” awards died in 2014 because of the intoxication caused by the simultaneous reception of several types of drugs. The Wall Street Journal reports that Hoffman found dead in the bathroom of his apartment on Bethune Street in New York (Shallwani par. 1). According to the official conclusion of physicians, before his death, the actor took heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines (used as a sleep aid), and amphetamine while cocaine and amphetamine can cause malfunction of the heart, and heroin in combination with benzodiazepines can cause breathing problems. Before his death, the actor wrote that he was haunted by “demons” and that he tried to control them using anonymous meetings of drug addicts, states NBC News (Esposito par. 1). This fact confirms his addiction.

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However, it is not a single case. The growing heroin “epidemic” threatens the whole country. For example, USA Today claims that Hoffman’s death is “shining a spotlight on an epidemic of opiate addiction that has soared over the past decade” (Leger par. 1). The article also referred to the death of the famous Cory Monteith, who died of an overdose in a rehabilitation center. Law enforcement reports that the wave of the epidemic of heroin is rising. The author of the article claims that the number of heroin users increased “from 239,000 in 2010 to 335,000 in 2012” (Leger par. 7). The main source of the drug addiction is the abuse of prescription of such drugs as “Theraflu” or “Income Tax” and painkillers as OxyContin. They contain opioids that affect as the heroin in the case of abuse. Nevertheless, the quantity of painkillers’ users declined from 566,000 to 358,000 during two years from 2010 to 2012. In New York, where the actor lived, heroin is easily accessible. For example, Leger reports that Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized 33 pounds of heroin worth $ 8 million a large heroin mill (par. 7). New York Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan believes that it shows the epidemic scale.

Moreover, according to The Washington Times, the heroin use in the period from 2007 to 2012 jumped from 373,000 to 669,000 (Riddell par. 5). In spite of the fact that numbers are different to some extent, the growth of addicts is obvious. Hoffman’s death should serve as a signal, in other words, as a kind of warning to the epidemic because the number of deaths is rising rapidly. For instance, law enforcement officials said that 91 cases of death from heroin were registered in Virginia during the first nine months of 2012 compared with 90 cases in 2011 and 70 in 2010 (Riddell par. 13). In Maryland, about 37 people have died because of the heroin from September 2012. Heroin affects all sectors of society both famous and ordinary people. Therefore, people need to wake up and see the whole situation, which grows into an epidemic. The article also mentions OxyContin that is becoming more and more difficult find. Moreover, comparing with OxyContin heroin is cheaper. “While an 80 milligram OxyContin pill costs as much as $ 100 in the underground marketplace, heroin ranges from $ 45 to $ 60 for a multiple-dose supply,” claims Riddell (par. 9). The dangerous is the fact that people are beginning to organize their lives according to the heroin without knowing it as the habituation occurs extremely quickly. The further proof of the epidemic can be the fact that heroin is the most addictive and powerful drug in the world. Sometimes, it might be rather difficult to note the border between addiction and usual drug usage.

The next newspaper under analysis is The Huffington Post that describes the epidemic of heroin consumption. “We’ve heard from public officials throughout the Northeast of soaring addiction within their own localities,” says Bridget Brennan, a special narcotics prosecutor (Hart par. 23). Among those who have the peak death rate from heroin are people between 45 and 54 years old. Precisely speaking, the percentage of deaths from heroin overdoses has increased by 45 percent from 2006 to 2010. The author mentions the previous epidemic of heroin that is associated with HIV infection in the 1980s. According to The National Institute of Drug Abuse, 4,2 million Americans have tried heroin at least once in their life. The article notes the case of the heroin withdrawal weighing 33 pounds, too. It is also worth noting that of the 115 000 people receiving methadone in the United States 40 000 live in New York. The article also mentions that the packs of heroin found in Hoffman’s apartment were labeled with an ace of spades and the ace of hearts.

US News emphasizes that “over the next several years as national data trickles out, heroin deaths will be up across the board” (Koebler par. 2). The author states that reports of New York City, Maryland, and Washington state suggest the increase in the number of drug addicts and, as a result, number of deaths. What is more, the growth is observed in those regions where nobody could predict it. The author states that heroin addiction and mortality are detected both in urban and rural areas because one could find pharmacy everywhere. One of the main reasons of the epidemic is the transition from oxycodone and codeine to heroin, as pills issued by prescription are becoming more and more expensive and difficult to obtain. At the same time, heroin becomes the readily available substitute. Although, this data does not shown in national investigations yet.

There is one report of Maryland indicating “41 percent increase in heroin deaths between 2011 and 2012, following four years of decline” (Koebler par. 7). It is likely that the average heroin user would be older than ever before because of the substitution of prescription drugs by the heroin. The authorities are pondering over how to resolve this problem. “We’re working on ways to reduce this horrific epidemic, and we’re working with the federal government on ways to increase its availability,” Compton says (Koebler par. 27). However, there is no appropriate solution for the existing situation with heroin in the United States yet. In his article, Koebler uses graph and video to prove his point of view and make it more informative.

The next part of the paper provides an empirical analysis of the validity of claims described above using data from Monitoring the Future (MTF) and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). According to 2014 Overview Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use that reveals the main aspects of heroin use chronologically, one might note the growth of heroin use from 2000 to 2010. The data collected by authors is based on the heroin use by any method including snorting, smoking, injection, etc. In order to prove their position towards the described problem, authors use the empirical data organized in graphs. Precisely speaking, “the use with a needle has fluctuated less over time, though in 2010 twelfth graders showed a significant increase to 0.7%, about where it remained in 2011 (0.6%)” (Johnston et al. 28).

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Speaking of the perceived risk, authors examining it from 1975 arguing that it fluctuates in the process of time. In particular, the reader of the Overview could note the decline of the heroin consumption between 1975 and 1986 and 1992 and the end of the 1990s along with growth between 1986 and 1992. It was stated that the perceived risk was stable during the 2000s. The disapproval of the heroin use also takes place in the analyzed paper. It varies a bit between 2000 and 2010, but insignificantly. However, the availability of the heroin increasing up to 1992 to 35 percent steadily declined in 2014 to around 20 percent. Thus, answering the main question of the paper, it should be stated that the 2014 Overview Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use does not confirm the beginning of the heroin epidemic. In spite of the fact that disapproval and availability of the drug did not grow considerably within the last decades, and heroin use declined a bit to 2014, one might mention that perceived risk rose noticeably among adolescents. Consequently, all the indicators show relatively stable situation.

Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides the reader with figures and their explanation dividing heroin users by age. The data does not support claims of “growing epidemic” presenting the estimate of past year young people heroin use “in 2014 (0.3 percent) that was greater than the estimates from 2002 to 2013 (ranging from 0.1 to 0.3 percent)” (Hedden et al. 11). No doubt that there is some increase in heroin use among adolescents, but this “difference represents a change from 0.1 percent in 2002 to 2013 to 0.2 percent in 2014” (Hedden et al. 11). Therefore, one cannot affirm the epidemic as the growth shown in statistics is not enormous and substantial. In addition, the analysis of the data made by authors of two surveys analyzed above can be proved. It could not be easily argued and denied, as there is evidence of it being taken from reliable sources. However, no reasons of increased heroin use are mentioned. Therefore, the information presented in newspaper articles does not appear to be accurate and trustworthy.

In conclusion, it should be stressed that authors of the articles pointed out the main changes and trends connected to the heroin addiction. Consequently, one may conclude that the goal desired by authors was achieved because they provided an average reader with the useful and clear information. As a result of the comparison of news outlets and the official statistics provided by MTF and NSDUH, it should be emphasized that the documents do not prove the growing epidemic of the heroin use in the United States as plenty of newspapers such as USA Today, Washington Times, Huffington Post, and US News claimed.

Works Cited

Esposito, Richard. “Exclusive: Hoffman Wrote of ‘Demons’ in Diaries Before Overdose”. NBC News. 2014. Web.

Hart, Andrew. “Philip Seymour Hoffman Death Spotlights Heroin Epidemic.The Huffington Post. 2014. Web.

Hedden, Sarra L., Joel Kennet, Rachel Lipari, Grace Medley, and Peter Tice 2014, Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. PDF file. Web.

Johnston, Lloyd D., Patrick M. O’Malley, Richard A. Miech, Jerald G. Bachman, and John E. Schulenberg 2014, 2014 Overview Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. PDF file. Web.

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Koebler, Jason. “Hoffman’s Death Highlights Growing Heroin Epidemic”. US News. 2014. Web.

Leger, Donna. “Hoffman Death Puts Focus on Heroin’s Comeback.USA Today. 2014. Web.

Riddell, Kelly. “Hoffman’s Death Highlights U.S. Spike in Heroin Use.The Washington Times. 2014. Web.

Shallwani, Pervaiz. “Award-Winning Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Found Dead in Manhattan.Wall Street Journal. 2014. Web.

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