The heroin epidemic in the United States is almost hard to comprehend, especially since the nation has a history of facing narcotic scourges. The rates of abuse and overdoses deaths are staggering, calling on officials to rethink how they look at and deal with substance abuse.
On the eastern seaboard and Appalachian region, officials have seen an unprecedented rate of addiction. Public rehabilitation services are overflowing, infectious disease continues to spread and more people lose their lives with each day that passes.
In Pennsylvania, eight people overdosed on heroin in 70 minutes, in a county of 200,000 people, The Washington Post reports. The rush of overdoses was not the result of a bad batch of the drug or negligent dosing practices among users; it was simply an example of what is resulting from a dramatic rise in heroin use (it is possible that fentanyl was involved). Sadly, more than eight people would overdose that day, in 24 hours there were 16 overdoses in all, and 25 over a two day period.
While three people lost their lives, no question a tragedy, it is worth noting that others were saved by opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone – sold under the brand name Narcan ®. It probably goes without saying, that this recent incident underscores the need for increased naloxone access – especially because the problem does not appear to be subsiding anytime soon.
“There’s been a progressive increase in overdoses the last two years, and it just went out of control,” said Rick Gluth, supervising detective on the district attorney’s drug task force. “I’ve been a police officer for 27 years and worked narcotics for the last 15, and this is the worst. I’d be glad to have the crack epidemic back.”
In the past, users would be incarcerated for their acts, but this does little to address the problem of addiction. Approaching addiction as a disease has more and more states offering treatment over jail. The U.S. attorney for western Pennsylvania and co-chair of the National Heroin Task Force established by the Justice Department, David J. Hickton, believes users need help not incarceration, according to the article.
“There is a growing sense of community outrage that we can’t accept this like we are accepting it,” said Hickton. “We just can’t go on like this.”
“If they’re using and trafficking, I prosecute them,” he said. “If they’re just using, they need help.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, please contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.