Life in the keystone state may sound idyllic enough, but there is a darker side to rural Pennsylvania that you don’t always hear about. According to an investigative report that was released on Tuesday, heroin is easier to get than a bottle of wine and can be cheaper than a six-pack of beer. The state is not alone in its struggle against the heroin crisis, as neighboring states Vermont and New York have also seen an all-time high in heroin use and overdoses. Officials are concerned for the states’ youth.
Drug Use in Rural Areas
Drug and alcohol use is not uncommon in rural areas. In fact, it is often a popular way to pass the time on lazy summer nights or uneventful weekends. Teens, especially, seek the momentary rush of a drug high during what can be droning life in small-town America.
Heroin has become particularly popular of late due to its easy access, fast and intense high, and cheap rates. Heroin dealing is also a popular mode of income for those with economic troubles.
Prescription Opioid Addiction Leads to Heroin Abuse
An issue that the United States has been struggling with for decades is that of prescription drug addiction. It has only gotten worse in recent years, with the increasing popularity of Oxycontin and Vicodin. Rich kids are especially susceptible to prescription drug addiction, as well as those who become unexpectedly hooked after an operation or other medical issue.
Opioids can create an intense addiction after just one or two uses. Users will do anything to get their hands on more meds, whether they ransack a family member’s medicine cabinet, feign illness or pain, or connect up with an unethical physician or pharmacist. Opioid withdrawal is painful and mirrors that of other illnesses, and the user only seems to find relief when he takes more drugs.
When he runs out of options, however, heroin begins to look rather enticing. Not only does it create the same high that prescription opioids do (coming from the same source), it is considerably cheaper. And there is no shortage.
From the Laws to the People: What to Do About Heroin Addiction
The Pennsylvania report offers a number of suggestions for legislative action. It should be easier to prosecute dealers whose customers die from an overdose. It also recommends a “Good Samaritan” law protecting people who seek treatment from criminal charges.
In addition to legislative change, however, it is important that the people do their part as well. In fact, this often influences more change than a bunch of new laws. Drug education should come from parents and teachers alike and should include all the facts about opioid abuse–why people do it, what the ramifications are, and how to seek treatment.
A sad fact about heroin addiction is that very few people actually do get the treatment they need. In fact, out of the 760,000 Pennsylvania residents with addiction problems, only 52,000 are being treated. Not only that, the treatment options that are available are not as effective as they should be. According to the Pennsylvania report, only one in eight addicts are actually helped with existing state resources.
The War on Drugs is Not Working
The War on Drugs that has been waged against the illicit drug trade since the 1970’s has left most people bitter and wary of government interference. The introduction of military aid and severe drug policies has resulted in a lot of jail time and not a lot of effective treatment. The numbers continue to rise and illicit drug development continues to expand.
Many states like Pennsylvania and Vermont are finding it more effective to treat heroin abuse less as a war and more like a health issue. In sooth, that is what it is. Not only have overdoses been climbing steadily over the past two decades, addiction destroys lives and lands people on the street and on welfare. This country would do well to put less emphasis on incarceration and more on rehabilitation and drug education.