The Current Heroin Crisis in Pennsylvania
Like many states, the heroin crisis in Pennsylvania is so widespread, it’s reaching into every area of the state. Age, gender, and socioeconomic status have little to do with it anymore. It’s in rural areas, suburban areas, and the cities (particular Philadelphia). And it’s not getting any better, according to recent data.
It can affect literally anyone, although surprisingly, the middle-aged are getting hit hard. And that’s in sharp contrast to previous years, when young people were usually the most common users.
By now we all know why this is happening. The rise in heroin addiction appears to be a result of patients getting addicted to prescription painkillers. When they can no longer get medication, they turn to the cheaper and widely available alternative, heroin.
Statistics on Overdose Deaths in PA
According to the Pennsylvania Coroner’s Association, heroin and opiate drug overdoses increased in 2014 by 20%. And based on early reports, 2015 is likely to yield similar results. Also in 2014, there were nearly 2500 overdose deaths by drug poisoning, and that data isn’t inclusive and likely under-reported.
1990, overdose deaths included 177 women and 389 men. By 2013, that number had skyrocketed to 909 women and 1598 men. Both male and female overdose deaths more than quadrupled. The greatest number of overdoses for women ranged in age from 45-54. For men, the greatest numbers were in the 25-34 and 45-54 age ranges, respectively.
Last fall, the Drug Enforcement Agency released data for drug-related overdose deaths in Pennsylvania. You can view a map and more information on those findings here.
On the Epidemic
The problem is a nationwide pandemic, however. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdoses by opioids (heroin and prescription painkillers) have quadrupled since 2000. Many of the hardest hit states are in the northeast, from Wisconsin and Illinois, down around Kentucky, and all the way back up to Maine.
Saint Vincent’s College researcher Eric Koclan:
“It is NOT a young person drug/issue by any stretch of the imagination. We have interviewed many people in their 30s and 40s who got addicted to pain medication following a surgery where they followed their prescription and still became addicted. This is not something that is recreational, from what we are seeing. The pain pill addiction is real.”
Gov. Tom Wolf signed an order in October of 2015 which permits state and local law enforcement agencies to use the opioid antagonist drug Naloxone. This drug has been in the news quite a bit lately. It’s an anti-overdose drug which so far has been credited with saving at least 550 lives.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology