Heroin use is on the rise in the Garden State, and the apparent overdose and death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has brought the issue into the spotlight once again.

Marianne Williams Photography, Getty Images

"Not that we would ever wish anyone in any position to have to die from a heroin overdose, but it keeps bringing the message home that the addict is not the person we think they are," said Steven Liga, CEO of the Middlesex County chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. "I think the more of these high-profile people who are overdosing, the more we need to look around us and change our stereotypes around who would be addicted and who would use a drug. It could be anybody."

The fact that heroin is so inexpensive has contributed to the increase in usage. Oxycontinmay cost about $20 or $30 per tablet, while a bag of heroin is $5 or $10.

In New Jersey, according to Liga, the heroin is so pure that people do not need a needle to start. That barrier kept many people away from heroin for a long time.

"Sooner or later, sniffing heroin won't be strong enough and you will get to a needle," Liga said. "But, you can start out with a simple snort and that's easier for a lot of people to accept when they start out."

Because the purity of heroin in New Jersey is so high, addiction sets in a lot faster and tolerance goes up. Someone may start with a one or two bag-a-day habit, but that will quickly go up, and the person will get hooked much more quickly because the increased dose is so much stronger.

"When you're starting off with something very strong, your body has to adjust to that pretty quickly or it's going to die," Liga said. "So, you'll see a tolerance go up much faster with a stronger drug."