After Actor’s Death, Heroin Hits Home

Created: 02/03/2014 10:50 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Over the weekend, Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York City apartment.

Investigators say they found 5 empty bags and 65 full bags of heroin in the apartment. And while an exact cause of death hasn't been determined, it’s believed Hoffman died of a heroin overdose.

The actor's death shocked fans across the world, putting the dangers of heroin back in the spotlight.

But in Minnesota the danger may be even greater.

"I think heroin was probably the biggest downfall of my life,” said William, a recovering heroin addict. “It wrecked me completely. I was an empty shell, I didn't have anything left."

William, whose last name we’ve omitted for privacy reasons, is receiving treatment at the new Mn Adult and Teen Challenge center in Rochester.

He said it took less than a year for the drug to ruin his life.

"I didn't have hope. I didn't have love. I didn't have anything in my life,” William said.

And just like Philip Seymour Hoffman and countless others before him, William had his own experience with an overdose. William said he collapsed after shooting seven bags in a hotel room with two other users.

"I finally totally lost consciousness coming into the hotel room,” William said. “The guy dropped me on the bed and said, 'I hope he lives.' And I was out. I didn't know if I was going to live or die."

Thankfully William survived and sought treatment that very day.

Law enforcement officials say heroin use in Minnesota has taken off in the last five years, and treatment specialists say that's because of how cheap and potent the drug can be here.

"Heroin right now is the purest form that's readily available,” said Anthony Villerreal, a long-term program director with Mn Adult and Teen Challenge. “So yes, it's skyrocketed here in the Midwest, and in Minnesota you're seeing it twice as cheap as anywhere else in the United States."

Villerreal used to be a dealer himself, and said he knows just how addictive it can be.

"When I first started selling it, I would give it away,” Villerreal said. “Because I knew people would just immediately get hooked on it."

William also used to sell heroin, but now says he wouldn't wish the addiction on his worst enemy.

"It's a road that nobody should go down,” William said. “It's lonely, it's dark. it's cold. And the only thing it's going to do to you, it's going to kill you."

Mn Adult and Teen Challenge actually came to Rochester because problems with substance abuse were so prevalent in Southeastern Minnesota.

The center opened at the start of the year, and currently William is one of ten men living there, all of whom staff say are writing their own success stories.