Our View: Heroin problem needs solved quickly

DKS Editors

Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died Sunday of an apparent drug overdose, will no doubt be remembered as a gifted actor. “We did not lose just a very good actor,” critic A.O. Scott of the New York Times wrote Monday. “We may have lost the best one we had.”

While Hoffman’s death is highly tragic and significant, we hope the public realizes he is one of many people affected by the serious disease of addiction.

Health officials who talked to The Washington Post said in recent months they have seen 37 people in Maryland, 22 in western Pennsylvania and several others in Ohio and New York die from injecting heroin mixed with fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller that can be 100 times stronger than morphine. Law-enforcement officials said Monday it was unclear whether Hoffman used the deadly heroin-fentanyl mixture.

Northeast Ohio has seen its share of recent problems related to increased heroin use and overdoses, so the problem is not new to us. But it seems that many in politics and the media are renewing calls for heroin task forces in light of Hoffman’s death. This raises a red flag for us because the death of Hoffman, though sudden and sad, is not more unusual or significant than the countless others who have suffered the same fate.

It does not seem right that it would take something as extreme as the overdose of a respected actor to make change happen — this almost seems like how it took the deaths of 20 elementary school children at Sandy Hook in 2012 for the nation to start talking seriously about gun control. It should be a problem when anyone dies of heroin or gets shot in a school shooting.

If it took the death of an actor for the nation to call for re-examining drug policy and combatting overdose deaths, so be it. We do not want to see this issue fall to the wayside quickly like the gun control problem ultimately has. If officials want to address the heroin epidemic, we hope they attack it as soon as possible.