The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

February 6, 2014

Our View: No romance in heroin's return

Why It Matters: Heroin is back, and this time around it's not limited to inner cities.

Died with a needle in his arm.

The weekend death of acclaimed actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman put a well-known, even beloved, face on a rising scourge: Heroin.

The opiate is making a comeback in the United States. And whereas it has generally been an inner-city phenomenon in the past, heroin’s current incarnation is showing up in rural and small town America.

There have been signs of the drug making inroads in the Mankato area, including an arrest in September after a residence across the street from Lincoln Community Center — home to a sober school — was raided.

The Associated Press this week noted that the governor of Vermont devoted most of his State of the State address to Vermont’s growing heroin problem, and quoted a Florida epidemiologist who studies substance abuse: “We haven’t really seen something this rapid since probably the spread of cocaine and crack in the mid-1980s.”

Why is this killer growing in popularity? In part, it is stepping in for other addictive painkillers, such as oxycodone, which has been a major problem in rural America for years. Heroin is cheaper than the prescription painkillers, and it is highly addictive. The current rise in use is said to be predominately among young adults, aged 18 to 29.

Another attraction is doubtless the supposed dark romance of flirting with disaster.

But there’s nothing romantic about dying with a syringe stuck in one’s arm, as Hoffman did. Heroin is a sordid way to live, and a worse way to die.

It appears a new generation is learning that lesson the hard way. Perhaps Hoffman’s death will serve that purpose.

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