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Actor’s death puts spotlight on heroin addiction

SAN DIEGO – Philip Seymour Hoffman’s apparent heroin overdose is bringing new light to the alarming rise in heroin.

John, who wished to remain anonymous, shared his battle with heroin with Fox 5. He knows the horrors of heroin addiction and near impossible strength it takes to kick it.

“I found my roommate dead on the floor with a needle in his arm,” he said. “I was at a party and someone put it in a cigarette and was passing it around like a joint.”

123 heroinHe said after just four times smoking heroin he was addicted and already the excruciating withdrawals had begun.

“That’s the part that really tears someone apart. When they run out they become physically dependent upon the drug and it owns them,” John said.

Nancy Knott is a drug intervention counselor with Scripps Health and said a staggeringly high percentage of her patients are seeking treatment for heroin addiction. A number that’s gone up dramatically in the last four years.

“They would start out smoking it, snorting it,” said Knott. “The progression to IV use is very fast – stunningly fast.”

Knott said death from overdose is not unusual.

“A lot times they’ll go back using at the same level before and it’s lethal,” said Knott. “That’s why sometimes you see someone leave treatment and not follow discharge rules and boom they’re dead and nobody knows what happened.”

According to Knott, the spike in heroin use is from prescription drug abuse and over prescribing by doctors. Then 4 years ago, the beginnings of the prescription drug drop off program, which solved one problem but caused another.

“It created a whole new problem, addiction didn’t go away, opiates didn’t go away,” said Knott, adding that adolescents are smart. “[They] found out they could take heroine. Instead of paying $80 they were paying $20.”

It’s no longer the high they’re after, but alleviation from the pain of withdrawal.

“It’s a severe flu at first,” John said. “As the disease progressed, it became vomit, diarrhea and being possessed by the drug. It’s beyond imagination really.”

At his worst, John went from 190 pounds to 140 and was losing his teeth.

He has been clean for 12 years and says there is hope.

“I love life! It’s very good today. Recovery is possible for anyone with addiction. They just have to do the work,” John said.

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