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Heroin Use On The Rise In South Florida

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When renowned actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment Sunday, he reportedly had a syringe in his arm and dozens of envelopes of what is believed to be heroin in his home.

Sources tell CBS News there were more than 70 glassine envelopes found, some empty, some full, some with traces of a substance.

"It goes to show you heroin does not discriminate among the rich and famous versus your 20-year-old neighbor versus your college student," said Amber Landfield.

Landfield is a clinical liason at Transitions Recovery Program, a residential substance abuse treatment program in North Miami Beach, and she says she's seeing more and more people hooked on heroin.

"I would say in the last six months it's more so than we've ever seen," said Landfield.

In fact, experts say the number of deaths due to heroin across Florida has almost doubled over the last two years.

"It's an epidemic.  It's an epidemic because of the rapid rise," added James N. Hall a drug abuse epidemiologist.

According to a report sponsored by the National Institute On Drug Abuse, the number of heroin related deaths in Miami-Dade County alone is up by 120 percent and across Florida heroin deaths have increased 89 percent.

Hall, who compiled the statistics, says 15 deaths were caused by heroin abuse in Miami-Dade in 2011 the number more than doubled to 33 in 2012.

In Broward County, the increase was 300 percent.

Three deaths were reported in 2011 and nine, one year later.

Those who work in the treatment and recovery field say it's only getting worse.

Hall explained some of the reasons include the price of heroin has dropped dramatically because supply has flooded the South Florida streets from Mexico.

"We have buried way too many young people," said Landfield.

Landfield stated that another reason for the increase has been a crackdown on pill-mills in South Florida. People who once abused prescription medications are turning, instead, to heroin, a cheaper and more readily available option with potentially deadly consequences.

"It's very common a lot of college students not only from college in Miami you're looking at colleges in Boca and Ft. Lauderdale, it's everywhere, and like I said, regardless of someone's upbringing or background a 'straight A' student can very easily get addicted to it," said Landfield.

"Seventeen of the 20 surveillance sites across the country report heroin as the number one key change in their communities in the past six months," Hall added.

After just 72 hours of use, Landsfield explained the body becomes dependent on the drug, but it can take as little as one time using heroin for it to turn deadly.

"The real danger here is people are putting drugs in their body and they don't really know what it is," Landfield said. "The potency of the heroin we're finding can literally kill someone from using one ten dollar bag."

"Today, drug addiction results in the most deadly, most dangerous, and most addictive patterns we've seen in the past 50 years," Hall added.  "And it's going to get worse before we start to see it get better.  Heroin has defined drug addiction in this country."

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