PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Philip Seymour Hoffman was a fearless actor.
With roles ranging from Academy Award winning parts, like Truman Capote, to Willy Loman in “Death Of A Salesman” on Broadway, he had an uncommon talent.
But his death at age 46 was a sad and all too common scene. Found lying on his bathroom floor, a needle in his left arm, empty packets believed to hold heroin nearby.
Hoffman had a history of addiction – and though sober for years – had reportedly begun flirting with drugs again.
“We often tell patients that the disease is actively progressing behind the scenes – even if they’re not using,” said Dr. Neil Capretto.
Capretto, Medical Director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center, says brain cells are actually changed by substance abuse and that especially with heroin, a person’s tolerance for the drug goes down with sobriety.
“If they try to use what they did back in their addiction – that amount a couple years later, whatever, could kill them if they’re not careful – particularly now with this stronger stuff that’s on the street,” he said.
Investigators in New York are now trying to determine if Hoffman took that stronger stuff – a lethal mix of heroin and Fentanyl.
The New York Daily News reports that the heroin found in his apartment was marked “Ace of Spades” or “Ace of Hearts,” which a source says is known to be laced with Fentanyl.
The combination of heroin and the painkiller Fentanyl is becoming a major public health crisis in Allegheny County with 17 overdose deaths directly tied to the combo. Nearly a dozen users have come to Gateway Rehab because they are scared.
“I go lock myself in my bathroom and I do them – and within 20 seconds I was out,” one user said.
The young addiction patient at Gateway Rehab usually needed seven to 10 bags of heroin to get high. He used only two of the heroin-Fentanyl mix marked “Theraflu,” or “Bud Ice” and would have died had his mother not broken in the bathroom door to give him CPR.
“Drug dealers don’t seem to care about collateral damage,” says Dr. Capretto.
“The drug dealers, unfortunately, are willing to have a few of their customers, four or five or more, die to attract 30 or 40 new customers – and on the street that’s just the cost of doing business,” Capretto said.