In a gripping story that appeared in the Rocky Mount Telegram in October, staff writer Brie Handgraaf pulled back the curtain on the life of “Stacy,” a heroin user who had lost her children, her home and her car in the throes of her addiction.
The story of Stacy (a pseudonym created to protect her identity) seemed surreal to some of us. After all this time and all of the education efforts that have centered on the dangers of heroin, in particular, how could a young person with so much potential succumb to its temptation in this day and age?
We find ourselves asking some of those same questions this week on a national scale in the wake of the apparent overdose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the gifted actors of our time.
Some of the answers are surprisingly simple. As The Associated Press has reported, heroin from Afghanistan is in plentiful supply. It’s cheap, powerful and highly addictive. Some of its users found their way to heroin after a history of abusing prescription drugs such as oxycodone and other legal opiates. The irony is that heroin is less expensive and often easier to obtain than the carefully restricted prescription drugs.
Law enforcement officers this week echoed some of the same things that Rocky Mount police told Handgraaf last fall – they’re seeing a resurgence in the use of heroin. Heroin overdose deaths nationwide almost doubled in the past decade, from 1,842 in 2000 to 3,036 in 2010.
The death of Hoffman has put a celebrity face on an epidemic that has been here for some time.
The story of heroin users rarely ends well. If the abuse doesn’t result in an overdose or prison, it usually entails a long, painful withdrawal from the clutches of addiction.
Seymour’s death is a tragedy. But it’s equally tragic when anyone else picks up a needle and begins using.
As Stacy told the Telegram in October: “I try not to let it take complete control over my life, but I can’t get out of bed without it, so I guess it still has control over me.”