One County Illustrates Just How Bad Heroin Epidemic Is

In one recent 70-minute span, 8 overdoses were reported
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2015 3:31 PM CDT
One County Illustrates Just How Bad Heroin Epidemic Is
Sacks of money, right, worth $2 million, and 154 pounds of heroin, left, worth at least $50 million, are displayed at a Drug Enforcement Administration news conference, May 19, 2015 in New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The Washington Post takes a look at the country's surging heroin epidemic by zeroing in on Pennsylvania’s Washington County, a place one local detective refers to as "ground zero" for heroin in the area. Last Sunday, in less than 70 minutes, eight heroin overdoses were recorded in the county of about 200,000 people. By a day later, that number had jumped to 16; by two days later, 25—three of which were fatal. As the Post notes, this period of time wasn't an isolated case but rather "an extreme example of what communities in parts of the country are enduring." In a Florida community earlier this month, 11 people overdosed on heroin in a 24-hour span, WKMG reported; this year, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had seen 44 heroin overdoses by June 5, the Gazette reported; New Jersey saw 781 overdose deaths related to heroin last year, 101.5 reported. Just yesterday, NPR ran a story on Marion, Ohio, a small town whose police chief says that his team sometimes responds to as many as three overdoses in just one hour.

One of the reasons heroin is booming: It's cheap—cheaper than the prescription drugs that, for some, start them down the road of addiction. And one of the reasons there are so many overdoses? Nowadays, the drug is even more potent. The US attorney for western Pennsylvania is one of a growing number of prosecutors who aren't interested in jailing users, the Post reports: "If they're using and trafficking, I prosecute them. If they’re just using, they need help," he says. But finding dealers—including any linked to fatal overdoses, who will be charged with homicide—is no easy task, as these days drugs are sold via cellphone or even, with more middle-class people addicted now, in unlikely locations like homes. The county's supervising detective sums up the "out of control" heroin problem: "I'd be glad to have the crack epidemic back." Click for the full Post article. (More heroin stories.)

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