Heroin-like drugs growing in popularity in Charleston area

Published: Feb. 4, 2014 at 12:21 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2014 at 7:31 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - An autopsy is being conducted Monday on Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

He was found dead with a needle stuck in his arm Sunday in his New York City apartment.

The 46-year-old is thought to have overdosed on heroin.

Officials have confirmed the drug was inside several envelopes in his apartment.

Heroin is becoming more popular among all socioeconomic groups and a local clinic is helping people shake their addiction.

"Over 50% of those in the morning intensive program are there for opiate addiction," said Austin O'Malley, a clinic instructor for MUSC Center for Drug and Alcohol Program.

O'Malley says heroin is an opiate.

"They become very mellow, there's an initial rush but after that one becomes extremely peaceful," said O'Malley.

The drug comes from the opium plant that morphine is made out of and those hooked on it have a hard time doing much of anything.

O'Malley said, "We will see changes in hygiene. The person becomes disheveled overtime, dry mouth, and a lot of itching."

In 2012 more than 11,000 visited the center for help with addictions of all kinds.

"For the most part addiction knows no bounds," said O'Malley, "It's an equal opportunity employer for sure."

Actors like former Glee star Cory Monteith and Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman both overdosed after signs of heroin use. Both actors spent time in rehab in the past.

O'Malley said, "With all drugs of abuse particularly opiates require constant vigilance."

O'Malley says the movement of heroin use is becoming more popular because government agencies have clamped down on opiates that come in the form of a pill.

"Oxycontin, Loirtab, Percocet. People that initially got hooked on prescription pills now are moving towards heroin due to the availability and the fact that it is cheap," said O'Malley.

O'Malley says drugs like heroin could become more lethal when laced with other substances.

"You give yourself what is referred to as a hot shot where even though you're used to shooting heroin, that particular injection could kill you," said O'Malley.

MUSC has a clinic where anyone could walk-in off the street Monday-Friday from 9 to 12 to get help with an addiction.

They also offer an opiate recovery clinic with two monthly group meetings with people trying to break their habit.

For more information on the program you can call MUSC at 843-792-5200.

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