Jeff Deeney, probably Philadelphia’s foremost chronicler of poverty and other urban afflictions, says the heroin that killed Philip Seymour Hoffman is leaving destruction up and down the East Coast, including in Philly. He writes at The Atlantic:
As a recovering addict who still works with active users in communities where heroin trades on the street I can tell you that it’s particularly dangerous out there right now. Recently an unpredictable and hard to track bad batch of Fentanyl tainted heroin has dipped and dodged its way through the mid-Altantic: Camden,Philadelphia, moving west to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and now Pittsburgh. Popping up to the south in Baltimore. Health practitioners in North Philly are getting bombarded with faxes from the Centers for Disease Control about the bad bags working their way around the streets, with instructions to warn their patients who might be using. Fentanyl tainted bags go fast; ironically, when news of a batch laying users low spreads on the streets heavy users seek the potent bags out by their brand.
More people are using heroin. Public health professionals have known for nearly a decade that a new cohort of heroin users was in the making as the prescription drug epidemic spread. This is a matter of pure economics. Prescription dope isn’t cheap. In Philadelphia an 80 milligram OxyContin pill will cost you $40. “Oxys” are safe in that the potency is predictable. Pills usually trade in safer parts of town than the North Philadelphia heroin corners where bullets can fly at any moment and the Narc Squad is always on the prowl. You pay a premium for upscale product, though; for the same money you could get four bags of heroin that’s just as potent. Eventually heavy users run out of money for pills, and seek out cheaper powders. These new users are fueling a surge in heroin purchasing in locations as remote as Vermont. Hoffman himself reportedly first relapsed on pills before moving into heroin use.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Manhattan apartment was littered with empty bags of a deadly type of heroin, it has been claimed.
The heroin – variously labelled as ‘Bud ice’, ‘Income tax’ and ‘Theraflu’ – has been linked to more than 100 deaths from coast to coast.
The hardest hit states in the epidemic are Maryland, with more than three dozen deaths since September, and Pennsylvania, with almost two dozen this month alone, according to reports.