Parents and police across the U.S. are struggling with a rise in heroin use in suburban neighborhoods more often concerned with SAT scores and the length of lines at Starbucks, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The rise is being driven by a large supply of cheap heroin in purer concentrations that can be inhaled or smoked, which often removes the stigma associated with injecting it with a needle. Much of the increase among suburban teens, as well as a growing number of adults, has also coincided with a sharp rise in the use of prescription painkiller pills, which medical experts say are essentially identical to heroin.
The latest rise in heroin abuse was made more visible by the overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Use of the drug has been growing steadily across many levels of society for at least the past five years. Unlike the heroin surge in the 1970s, the current use of opiates is far more concentrated among suburban and rural whites than among African-American and Latino communities. “The perception [used to be] that heroin was mostly an urban problem,” says Anthony Pettigrew, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in New England. “But now there are no borders, there are no demographic or geographic areas … that are immune from heroin.”