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Local News

February 5, 2014

Actor's death puts heroin in spotlight

Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman wound up dead Sunday in New York City with a heroin syringe in his left arm. Local individuals who have overdosed on heroin wind up in A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital’s emergency room at least once a week, a hospital administrator said Tuesday.

Dr. Kelly A. Robinson, medical director of Fox Hospital’s emergency department, said a particularly close incident occurred about two weeks ago when a man in his mid-20s was dropped off at the emergency room, unconscious and unresponsive.

The man wasn’t breathing, Robinson said, and had overdosed on heroin.

“If he hadn’t been brought in,” Robinson said, “he would have died.”

The frequency of heroin-related emergency medical calls and hospital visits reflects the recent national and local resurgence of heroin use.

Julie Dostal, executive director at LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addiction, called the local heroin problem a “crisis.”

“There may not be the typical shady character on the corner selling heroin in Oneonta, but people don’t have to look too far to get it,” Dostal said.

Dostal said the national revival of heroin is the fallout from a surge of prescription painkiller misuse. She said people who are in pain often develop a high tolerance level to their medicine and end up needing more-powerful medicine to overcome their symptoms.

According to Dostal, several laws have recently been put into place that make it difficult to attain prescription medications. She said pharmacies and hospitals keep detailed records of narcotics that are prescribed to ensure that patients cannot get a hold of more medicine than they are supposed to have. This, she said, is where heroin comes in.

As soon as prescription drug abuse was becoming more under control, Dostal said, heroin use skyrocketed.

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