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Death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman spotlights fentanyl scourge

Published on Feb 5, 2014 12:38 PM
 
Police officers stand outside the apartment of movie actor Philip Seymour Hoffman after he was found dead in New York on Feb 2, 2014. Investigators are racing to find the source of a synthetic narcotic called fentanyl that is sometimes mixed with heroin and is believed by health authorities to be responsible for scores of United States overdose deaths in recent months. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

(Reuters) - Investigators are racing to find the source of a synthetic narcotic called fentanyl that is sometimes mixed with heroin and is believed by health authorities to be responsible for scores of United States overdose deaths in recent months. The authorities are investigating whether fentanyl, which is up to 50 times more potent than heroin, might have been combined with the heroin believed to have killed Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46.

The actor was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Sunday, with a syringe stuck in his arm. New York City police sources said 50 small bags of what appeared to be heroin were found in his home. An autopsy of the actor's body was performed on Monday and the results could be made available soon, officials said.

"It takes a very small amount of fentanyl to kill. A few grains of powder by itself is probably enough," said Dr Melinda Campopiano, medical officer for the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "The heroin is probably incidental at that point."

Many addicts like the additional "pop" that fentanyl seems to give their heroin high, even though they are usually unaware of the drug's presence and added danger, according to experts.

 
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