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  • 29 Aug 2014

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Police say actor's death highlights heroin problem

Portland police are citing the reported drug overdose death of Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman to highlight the problem of heroin in Portland and the United States.

"This tragic event has brought significant attention to the use of heroin in the United States," the Portland Police Bureau said in a Tuesday press release. "Closer to home, in Multnomah County, heroin abuse and overdose deaths continues to be a significant issue for the community."

The release includes statistics compiled by the Oregon State Medical Examiner about heroin overdose deaths in Multnomah County. They show that 95 people died in 2011, 90 people died in 2012, and 55 people died in 2013, with toxicology tests not yet compete on four additional cases that are suspected of being heroin overdoses.Although the number of deaths was relatively low last year, the release notes that the number — 55 — was far more than the 15 homicides in the city.

The police Drugs and Vice Division (DVD) is notified on every drug overdose death Portland. DVD investigated 25 heroin overdose deaths for potential criminal prosecution In 2011. The number was 18 in 2012 and 21 in 2013.

In 2013, DVD seized nearly 6 kilograms of heroin, which translates to 30,000 individual doses, any of which is potentially fatal, police say.

DVD attributes many of these heroin overdose deaths to people who first became addicted to prescription pain medication then switch to heroin due to the cheaper cost.

Members of the Drugs and Vice Division created a documentary film about prescription drug abuse called Generation RX - The Pill Problem, narrated by KGW's Tracy Barry, to raise awareness about the reality of prescription drug abuse in Portland. It can be viewed at www.portlandoregon.gov/police/article/426624.

Community members wishing to provide information about drug activity in their neighborhoods can file it online by visiting www.portlandoregon.gov/police/30740.

Those wanting to learn more about the Drugs and Vice Division should visit www.portlandoregon.gov/police/30560.