Heroin abuse climbing nationally in recent years - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Heroin abuse climbing nationally in recent years

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

While the exact cause of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's death over the weekend has yet to be determined, it's suspected heroin played a role.

FOX5 spoke with a local addiction specialist who said there's been an increase in people becoming addicted to heroin after first abusing prescription drugs.

"There will be some segment of the population that will want to use the heroin that killed Philip Seymour Hoffman," addiction specialist Dr. Michael Levy said.

Levy runs the Center for Addiction Medicine, the only such private outpatient medical practice in Nevada. He said that 95 percent of heroin users at his practice became addicted after struggling with prescription drugs.

"People are using it more because as the prescription pain pills disappear from the market, there's really no place for these addicted patients to go," he said.

It's something that has been increasing for years. According to CNN, about 333,000 Americans use heroin each month, a number which has doubled since 2002.

The increase comes as obtaining prescription opiates gets more difficult.

"On the street, if it's going to cost you $80 to get a pill for some opiate-type of pharmaceutical drug versus $10 for a bag of heroin, that's what we see," said James Capra, the DEA's director of operations.

Heroin abuse isn't limited to adults. Levy said that not long ago, he treated a 13 year old.

"Her first drug experience, and the drug that she was dependent on was heroin," he said.

Levy said heroin is particularly dangerous because doses tend to be inconsistent, and it can be laced with deadly additives in some instances.

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