Heroin Deaths Up In Shelby County

(Memphis) With the recent death of Hollywood actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office has a warning: If you shoot heroin, you are playing Russian Roulette with your life.

The Academy Award winner was found dead in his New York apartment Sunday, reportedly with a needle still in his arm.

Shelby County detectives say they have seen the number of heroin deaths double in the last few years in the county, and it’s taking the lives of people of all ages.

When we hear about an actor, whom many of us loved and followed on the big screen, die from a possible heroin overdose, it makes all of us pay attention.

“Look at the death yesterday and realize that heroin does not care who you are,” said Shelby County detective Jason Valentine.

With the death of Hoffman, Detective Valentine hopes that people can see clearly where heroin addiction will take you.

“It’s not something that is going to kill you 40 years from now. It’s not something that is going to kill you 20 years from now. You are basically playing Russian Roulette with a needle.”

If there’s a heroin overdose death in Shelby County, Valentine responds to it.

He says he’s gone to at least eight heroin deaths in January alone.

“It could be the amount you’re shooting, it could be the purity level, it could be the way you’ body reacts,” said Valentine. “Very rarely do we find a victim where there is still heroin on the scene that we can send off for any type of testing.”

Whether it’s heroin so pure that it catches the addict off guard or heroin spiked with something else, users can’t know because the drug comes from dealers on the street who aren’t testing it or following any sort of regulations.

WREG requested information from the health department to find out the exact number of deaths this year and last, but we’re told it will take a while to get those numbers.

In the meantime, Valentine says he is seeing addicts increasingly playing chance with their lives, and seeing them lose this game too often.

“In Shelby County, in 2014, it appearing to be either you get off of it or you pray every time you shoot that your time’s not coming.”

Detective Valentine says while addicts complain of the flu-like symptoms that they get withdrawing from the drug, he says there are treatment centers for all income levels that can help people detox safely from heroin. It’s a short period of discomfort that can save their life.