Heroin addiction isn't just an urban problem in Pennsylvania, where a small packet of the drug is cheaper and easier for young people in rural areas to obtain than a six-pack of beer, a new report warns. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania's report found that an "epidemic" of heroin use is affecting all parts of the state, with rural Cambria County having an overdose death rate the same as Philadelphia's, reports Reuters. The center's chairman, state Sen. Gene Yaw, says a bag of the drug capable of producing a high lasting more than four hours can be bought for $5 to $10. The report found that nearly 3,000 people in the state have fatally overdosed on heroin or other opioids in the last five years, and most heroin addicts were first addicted to prescription painkillers.
Lawmakers called for an aggressive and wide-ranging response to the crisis at an event yesterday where the report was released, PennLive notes. Speakers echoed the report's recommendations by calling for moves including a statewide prescription drug database, a "Good Samaritan" law to ensure people who seek help for overdose victims won't be prosecuted, and tougher penalties for dealers whose customers die of overdoses. But lawmakers also stressed that we "cannot arrest our way out of the problem" and called for compassion and improved treatment options for addicts. (Read more heroin stories.)