Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of an apparent drug overdose Sunday, had stockpiled more than 50 glassine envelopes of heroin in his Greenwich Village apartment, along with a number of prescription muscle relaxants and blood pressure pills, police said Monday.
Police executing a search warrant found the heroin bags, bearing the labels "Ace of Spades" and "Ace of Hearts," during their follow-up investigation into the Academy Award-winning star's untimely death at age 46.
The city medical examiner had not concluded an autopsy Monday and was expected to have toxicology results in a few days. An NYPD official, who didn't want to be identified, said part of the investigation is focusing on whether anyone who sold Hoffman the heroin may have adulterated it in a way that made him overdose. Fentanyl, another opioid derivative, is used by heroin dealers to give a double whammy to their product. If that shows up in Hoffman's blood work, the investigation would ramp up to a homicide probe, the official said.
NYPD and federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials said Monday that the two heroin types found in Hoffman's apartment have not been seen often in the metropolitan area. In one 2009 case DEA agents came across a single-sample Ace of Spades in Suffolk County. The NYPD found a sample of Ace of Hearts during a 2012 Queens investigation, one official said. Police commands were being asked Monday to report if they found those labels in their areas, a law enforcement official said.
Hoffman's death comes at a time when the city has seen a spike in fatal accidental heroin overdoses. A Department of Health report released in September showed such deaths increased by 76 percent from 2010 to 2012. Those trends translated to a 71 percent increase in the rate of heroin deaths per 100,000 residents, city special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan said in an interview.
"We have seen a large infusion of user-ready bags of heroin flooding the New York market. . . . so it is not a shock to see overdose and addiction rates accelerating," she said.
Most heroin flooding New York City today originates in South America, primarily Colombia, where drug cartels send it into the United States through Mexico or various ports, Brennan said. The purity can range as high as 80 percent to as low as 20 percent, she noted.
One problem with heroin users is that they often don't know from day to day the purity of drug they are using, something that can be deadly for those who may have stopped using for a time, Brennan said.
"You don't really know what your own tolerance levels are," Brennan said.
With Emily Ngo