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Heroin use on the rise, Loyola toxicologist says

MAYWOOD, Ill. (Feb. 5, 2014) – In the wake of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, Loyola University Health System toxicologist Christina Hantsch, MD, FACEP, FACMT, is available to talk about the rise she has seen in heroin overdoses in recent years.

“I have seen more fatal and near-fatal cases from heroin overdoses compared with other drugs of abuse,” Dr. Hantsch said. “We see the most severe cases in the hospital, so the increase may be indicative of a greater problem in the community."

Dr. Hantsch attributes this increase to regional trends and the fact that the drug is relatively inexpensive and highly addictive. This makes relapsing common as was reportedly the case with Hoffman.

“Those who use heroin can get hooked on the drug the first time they try it,” Dr. Hantsch said. “They also often require increasing amounts over time to get high or to prevent withdrawal."

Heroin can cause respiratory arrest and brain injuries from oxygen deprivation. Emergency medicine physicians and EMS providers have an antidote to counter the effects of the drug, so emergency services should be sought immediately with a suspected overdose.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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