After actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose last weekend, some in the media speculated the tragedy would focus new public attention on the deadly drug.
No doubt law enforcement and public health officials in this area hope devoutly that will be the case. They - and, we should note, we - have been sounding alarm bells about a local heroin epidemic for some time.
Heroin use is increasing in the United States. The National Survey on Drug Use found that between 2010 and 2012, abuse of some drugs decreased. For example, the number of people 12 years of age and over who were regular abusers of OxyContin dropped from about 566,000 in 2010 to about 358,000 in 2012.
During the same period, the number of regular users of heroin increased from 239,000 in 2010 to 335,000 in 2012.
Heroin kills about three people every hour in the United States.
Here in the Ohio Valley, it seems to have become a drug of choice for many.
Last month, Justin Withers, 29, of Wellsburg, pleaded guilty in federal court to supplying heroin to a Follansbee man who died after taking the drug. Withers faces as much as 20 years in prison. Another man involved in the case, Curtis Adams, also 29 and also from Wellsburg, is serving a five-year term in prison.
So yes, let's hope the actor's death causes some area residents to think twice before trying heroin, a notoriously addictive drug. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in West Virginia and Ohio are fighting hard against the drug - but they need help, badly.