Heroin Deaths Up In Shelby County

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(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.


  • Don

    I would guess the people using heroin probably started with trying a little weed and went on to where hey are today. There ain’t no cure for stupid.

  • human being

    In reading the only comments on this page so far, I’m saddened at the level of ignorance that plagues the general public on the disease of addiction. It is sad that with all of the resources spent reasearching this epidemic there still exists a belief that it is a moral dilemma or reflection of one’s character. My heart goes out to those afflicted, those lost, and all of the families and friends that suffered and continue to suffer and struggle with this disease.

  • Nonya Bidness

    If it is a disease, what causes it? A cold is caused by a virus, pneumonia is caused by bacteria, what is the cause of addiction? Stupidity? Ignorance? Loose morals? Quit giving people an excuse for their bad behavior.

    • Josh

      To nonya bid ness, unless u have hit the gutter and found the courage to fight your way out then u have no right to judge. Maybe u have experienced it and maybe u haven’t, I don’t know and won’t act like I do. I lived in the gutter for years and now I’m drug free and make 90,000 a year at the age of 26, people who can make it out of that life have 100 times more fight in them than that of those who had it made their whole life, aka spoiled, now when those folks develop a drug problem, that is idiotic because that’s just caused by boredom

  • Julie

    In response to Nonya Bidness’ idiotic comment. Even though I know people like you are a loss cause, I still feel the need to try. Not all diseases have causes. Google the word “idiopathic”, idiopathic diseases are those that have no known causes. Closed & simple minded people are really missing out on life. I feel sorry for you.

  • Josh

    I lost my best friend because of improper injection, that’s what made me straighten up, but since then I have noticed that heroine has spread the Memphis like the plague and has become almost as deadly. Detox programs need to be less expensive and more available because its always the lower class who uses drugs because of the stress in their lives. And people just don’t know how many of them want to stop but it can be almost impossible on their own and dangerous. I’m going to make a point in my life to help those who are to scared to ask for it.

  • sean

    If you not have something nice to say then don’t say anything. Saying one wrong thing can end someone life. The words u say can have just the same effect as a drug. Someone your close to or love can be on drugs and needs your help and you will never know because they can t come to you because you gave them the answer and before you know it, its already to late. You can call me whatever because I’m already down and lost. I’m needing help but scared to ask because it will make things worse and make me loses the ones I love so I live in a life of secrets. You think people want to help but all they do is judge you. I want myself back .

    • human being

      Sean, I hope only the best for you, bro! There are a lot of places to get help around memphis and throughout the mid south. When I couldn’t do it anymore, I asked my family to help me get back into treatment.. and it started there. There is a lot of help, if you’re willing to ask. I know it’s tough but you can do it!

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