Dr. Greg Skipper of Promises Treatment Centers this week told Jim Thornton and Diane Thompson of KNX Radio that the incredible potency of the heroin found on the streets today can be a fatal threat to anyone addicted to opiates. Dr. Skipper, a fellow of the American Board of Addiction Medicine and Director of Professionals Health Services at Promises, told KNX that Americans are among the heaviest consumers of opiates (morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.) in the world. Some of the most publicized struggles are those of celebrities and other public figures. “… Being a celebrity who is wealthy and well-known, you have a lot of opportunity and that’s one reason these guys have such a hard time staying clean and sober,” Dr. Skipper said. From 2007 to 2012, the number of Americans using heroin nearly doubled, from 373,000 to 669,000, according to the federal government’s most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released last fall. Heroin use has increased so much in Ohio that users say it is “falling out of the sky,” according to a news report by state health officials. “What we’ve seen is this prescription drug epidemic where people are getting prescriptions from doctors for these opiate drugs,” Dr. Skipper said. “Heroin, by the way, was pretty much invented by Bayer Labs, the people who brought us aspirin, and they marketed it initially as a non-addictive cough suppressant and the American Medical Association endorsed it around 1907 as a safe medication. “Soon after that, tons of people started getting addicted so it found its way onto the blacklist,” he said. “Competition has driven the price of heroin down, and the quality of heroin coming in has gone up,” Dr. Skipper said. “We’re seeing a lot of deaths from it because it’s so potent now. If people that used it … 20 years ago, if they used a similar amount now, they’d be getting a 10 times more potent drug and it’s easier to die from it. So were seeing an epidemic of overdose deaths around the country, particularly in metropolitan areas.” Nowhere is that epidemic more apparent than New York City. Heroin-related deaths there rose 84 percent from 2010 to 2012. Drug Enforcement Administration officials say heroin seizures in New York state are up 67 percent over the last four years. During a raid last week in the Bronx before the Super Bowl, 33 pounds of heroin was found, along with hundreds of thousands of branded bags, some of them stamped “N.F.L.” Heroin bags are often named for popular celebrities or luxury products, such as Lady Gaga or Gucci. An even more potent type of heroin spiked with the powerful opiate fentanyl has been blamed for numerous deaths over the last two weeks, first in the Pittsburgh area and later along the East Coast.