Heroin claims the lives of citizens nationwide and has skyrocketed with momentum in the past few years. Many people are asking the simple, yet perplexing questions “why?” and “how?” Although it may seem this issue appeared out of nowhere, “the government, law enforcement have been battling something that had a 70 year head start,” said Lancaster County Chief of Police Keith Sadler.
Communities have only recently been addressing the epidemic as a national crisis after heroin began leaking into suburban areas. “Nobody seemed to mind as long as that problem stayed in the intercity,” said Sadler.
As time went on and the drug spread to suburban areas, communities became disturbed by the alarming rate of heroin use. He continues by explaining the potency of heroin was weaker back then compared to today. It was generally 5% pure, which means that it was cut with other substances. Whereas today, heroin is 95% pure, meaning that it is much more addictive and dangerous than ever before. Drug dealers have found that this involves less work and allows them to cut out the “middle-man.” This also raises demand as their clientele seek stronger product. This has led to more overdoses than law enforcement has faced before. This year alone, law enforcement has encountered about 70 overdoses in comparison to an average 7 overdoses in years prior.
The heroin epidemic is not only causing a spike in deaths county-wide, but crime rates have skyrocketed as well. “A heroin habit can [cost] 400 or 500 dollars a day worth of heroin,” said Chief Sadler. Some of the crimes committed to support an addict’s habit include burglary, prostitution, and theft.
What was once an “old junkie addiction” is now “pervasive among young people.” Sadler suggested that using the drug intravenously may have kept younger people away from the drug before; however, heroin can also be snorted and smoked.
Chief Sadler sits on the County Heroin Task Force that he and other law enforcement officers and political figures in the community are also a part of. Local officials are trying as hard as they can to combat the issue by saving the lives of those who have overdosed with naloxone, better known as the brand-name Narcan, a lifesaving injection that counter effects an overdose. They have also been targeting major drug dealers, which Sadler refers to as “predators on the community.” However, even when an arrest of a notorious drug dealer is made, there is someone who quickly replaces them creating a “revolving door” effect.
Recovery houses are also an important tool for those struggling with addiction. There is still large room for growth as many recovery houses lack support and funding. Sadler said that it could take at least six to seven trips to rehab to kick the habit. This habit not only reeks havoc among the family and loved ones of those addicted, but the community as a whole.
When asked about the likely outcome of overcoming this massive issue, Sadler simply said, “it seems insurmountable but not impossible.” He emphasized the importance of the dedication of law enforcement and cooperation of the community. He urged anyone who encounters an overdose to immediately call for help, and stressed one phone call could be the difference between life and death.