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Death of Hollywood Actor Spotlights Heroin Cases

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The death of another Hollywood star has sparked an awareness of heroin cases.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The death of another Hollywood star has sparked an awareness of heroin cases.

An autopsy was conducted Monday on the body of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is believed to have died of a drug overdose. 70 envelopes of heroin were found in his apartment.

More than 100 people die from an overdose everyday in the U.S. Now, law enforcement is warning about an especially potent form of heroin.

The faces of the heroin epidemic include Jordan Medoff, a 23 year old who loved playing the guitar and hitting the gym

“When I tell people his addiction started 10 years ago they're kind of in shocked because he was 14 years old 10 years ago,” says Michelle Medoff, Jordan’s sister.

Medoff died of a heroin overdose in September. The drug once associated with the inner city is reaching a new kind of user.

“The way this often starts is with prescription pills from mom and dad's medicine cabinet,” says Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. “And so it quickly becomes a $200 a day habit and then someone taps you on the shoulder and says heroin is the same drug, It in only costs you $10.”

Drug experts say the heroin epidemic is getting significantly worse in the suburbs. In New York's Long Island, the heroin death toll is the highest it's ever been with 120 deaths last year and 121 the year before.

One reason for the surge in overdoses: a deadly mixture of heroin and the prescription drug fentanyl, a powerful painkiller up to a hundred times stronger than morphine.

In western Pennsylvania alone, the heroin-fentanyl mix claimed 22 lives in just two weeks.

“I've been in public health for 25 years, I've never seen it this bad,” says Dr Reynolds.

Dr. Reynolds says lowering the death toll will take better treatment and less stigma for addiction, a case families like the Medoffs are pushing even in their moment of loss.

Health leaders say the combination of heroin and the painkiller could increase the intensity and strength of heroin between 10 and 100 times.

The risk is increased when addicts don't realize they're getting an especially potent strain. They take their usual amount and overdose.

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