Pennsylvania’s heroin problem has not gone unnoticed by authorities. In the past few days, in fact, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania released a report discussing the epidemic and what can be done to combat it.


Heroin Related Graffitti

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Although the situation appears grim, there are viable solutions, both within the law enforcement and legal communities and without. First, there are a number of resources for people struggling with addiction of any kind.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration runs a hotline to help anyone affected by the abuse of illicit substances, reachable at 800-662-HELP (4357). While this service is valuable, SAMHSA’s status as a government administration is intimidating to many people affected by addiction, making private services equally important.

Experienced private investigators can help with many of the legal difficulties related to substance abuse. For the often daunting problem of treatment, there are important new projects being undertaken to combat the reluctance of those affected by substance abuse to seek help. Some can already be seen in practice outside of Pennsylvania.

Controversial methods of treatment are being considered, including the distribution of anti-overdose medications, and training in their administration. While these methods are seen by some as encouraging continued use of illicit substances, in some areas they have proven the only effective method of combating widespread use and addiction.

One model, established in Gloucester, Massachusetts, has proven effective. In it, law enforcement officials will fast-track into treatment anyone who comes to them asking for help—and they’ll dispose of the user’s drugs and paraphernalia without pressing charges for possession. Offering those suffering from substance abuse help without fear of punishment has been effective in smaller communities, and is beginning to prove itself on a larger scale, as well.

Though there are few existing statistics for the cost of implementing these amnesty initiatives, the cost of treatment is fundamentally less than the cost incurred by users who go without help. When calculating the price of drug use, we must not fail to take into account petty crime committed to feed habits, legal costs incurred while prosecuting people for possession, and the high rate of recidivism for those who do not receive long-term care.

These costs, while formidable, do not equal the loss of life to drug use and addiction. The practical solutions aren’t easy. In the report released on on December 7, Senator Gene Yaw, the chairman for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, said, “If someone has diabetes you don’t send them away for 30 or 60 days and expect them to come back fixed.” Indeed, 90 days is the minimum recommended stay in a dedicated facility, according to the report, and even then, the patient is only set down on the road to recovery.

Heroin is a particularly difficult drug to eradicate, because of its extreme addictiveness and its broad availability. But the growing trend of law enforcement and legal authorities offering treatment and placing blame on dealers, rather than users, might offer a new solution to combat this plague.

As always, if you or a loved one has been affected by substance abuse, please contact Forletta Investigative/Security Consultant. We have the knowledge and resources to help you work through many aspects of this sensitive issue.