Nightly News   |  February 03, 2014

Why Heroin Use Is Spiking

More than 250,000 people a year end up in the emergency room because of heroin use and deaths from overdoses are spiking.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> nothing but terrible reasons. the death of this star philip seymour hoffman at 46 is bringing attention to a rare win problem that is exploding among people in all walks of life across our country. our national correspondent, kate snow has that story.

>> reporter: carol christianson's eric was on the fast track with the new york city police .

>> reporter: seven years on this police?

>> yes, he was.

>> reporter: he had always wanted to be a cop like his dad.

>> he was 28, had a great career, happy.

>> reporter: as an undercover detective, he helped bust drug dealers but then he started using himself. by the fall of 2011 , he was addicted to prescription pain killers an then he followed a predictable pattern. the same one philip seymour hoffman told reporters he had followed from prescription drugs to heroin.

>> heroin was cheaper, easy to get. easy to shoot up, snort or smoke. heroin use in the u.s. nearly doubled over five years. more than a quarter million people a year end up in the e.r. and deaths from overdoses are spiking.

>> we think, for instance, we are going to find this somewhere else, in a bad neighborhood. well, it is found with rich people , poor people , middle class people.

>> reporter: in vermont, where the problem has been particularly severe, on saturday, a 33-year-old mom was arrested after police found 690 bags of heroin stuffed under her 5-year-old daughter's seat in the car.

>> these are $10 bags of heroin.

>> reporter: in chicago, an earlier nbc news investigation found the evidence is right there for anyone to see.

>> look at all these bags.

>> reporter: the grim fact is that nearly half of addicts will end up dead according to dr. marvin sepula.

>> tolerance builds up rapidly. they can't get the same sort of high from it. they keep going back for more.

>> every night before i go to bed, i give them a little sweep and go to bed.

>> reporter: eric had been out of rehab five days when he overdose.

>> my heart is broken every single day. i think of his every single day. he is always going to be 28. that breaks my heart. that's where the loss comes in, when the full realization of what the loss is. it is not just you don't see them anymore. it is the loss of their future and that's what hurts.

>> carol says she gets up every day hoping maybe she reaches some other family before it is too late. the hope of so many in the recovery community tonight is that philip seymour hoffman 's death isn't just another celebrity story but, brian, a way to really focus attention on this devastating problem.

>> absolutely. a drug that does not discriminate. kate snow with