Heroin: The epidemic keeps growing
Editor’s note: I found an article in the Luminary archives dated April 16, 2003 and the front page headline read: ‘Heroin a Serious Problem in Area.’ This tells me the problem is only escalating, now in epidemic proportions. The article stated on how heroin’s content is 80% more pure than it was in the 60’s. Today it is still easy and cheap to purchase, as it was then.
MUNCY – Amidst all of this summer fun, fairs and good food, lurks something evil in the shadows. It is causing more crime, family dysfunctions, and has now become a national statistic. “Heroin is everybody’s problem,” announced Lycoming County Judge Nancy Butts at a special town hall meeting held May 19 at the Paul Geringer Social Hall in Muncy. “We are all affected by it,” she announced to a full audience from the tri-town area.
Also accompanying her to expose the dangers and consequences of heroin’s abuse, but also to build a community awareness and to introduce resources to those affected by it, were local representatives from the Williamsport Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, local police chiefs, and Dr. Gregory Frailey from Susquehanna Health.
Judge Butts has been working earnestly on this issue for the past decade and along with local churches and municipalities, school administrators, law enforcement officials, medical personnel, and local government officials, have spread the word to help reduce the rising numbers of users and offenders.
Education to reduce these numbers is a key component as most law officials agreed upon during the presentation. Muncy Borough Police Chief Dorman attested to numerous arrests and vehicle stops moving out of Williamsport to all parts of the country. “It is an issue in Muncy. It is a crime of opportunity,” as he spoke about several cars being broken into and warned citizens to keep their cars locked. “20 of the cars weren’t locked. Handguns were stolen,” added Chief Dorman who believes that heroin is now branching out to the smaller communities. “They are looking for anything they can sell for drug money.”
Chief McKibben from Muncy Township said that heroin abuse has caused a huge economic impact in Muncy Township. With 165 businesses inside his township he said that retail theft has increased more than half. 93 percent of the arrests were heroin related and many were first offenses. 212 arrests have been made (not including the summer) for “our little township” according to McKibben.
Officer Rod Smith from Hughesville reported five armed robberies in the past 6 months, all related to heroin. Chief Ernie Delp from Montgomery found ten packs of heroin with needles from a stopped car after noticing track marks on the woman’s arm. “Functioning people do not look like criminals,” he said.
A Lycoming County Heroin Task Force has been established for those seeking help to combat the problem. Judge Butts emphasized its major role is for prevention, treatment, education and enforcement. The problem of heroin addiction is getting more organized with more usage.
Neighborhood watches were suggested as well as reaching out to parent/teacher organizations. “We will educate people what to look for,” added Judge Butts. “We need to use multiple approaches.” It could take months to make successful drug busts with surveillance and tracking multiple people down.
Officials profiled most users in their 20’s – they get hooked on heroin and commit crimes they never thought of doing before. Help can start with the task force by calling a toll free number (1-888-941-2721) and all information will be kept confidential through the task force.
Special guest speaker, Sgt. Shawn Toboz from the Pennsylvania State Police is a specialist on drug enforcement and recognition. He showed the audience some of the ways heroin and prescription drugs are being abused. “Be aware of what you have in your house,” he said as he showed slides of prescription drugs and painkillers. “They buy Robitussen and cook it down. There are lots of cheap ways with a few bucks and some OTC’s to get high,” he added. Common cough syrup with DXM causes hallucinations. “Look for spoons with white substances, and don’t turn a blind eye,” warned Sgt. Toboz.
Internet pharmacies are also making it easier to obtain a large number of drugs, barbiturates and anti-depressants. These drugs are experimented with first and usually lead to heroin, a highly addictive substance that can stop the heart from beating.
Dr. Gregory R. Frailey from Susquehanna Health said respiratory problems can arise and one can stop breathing. “The drug can last up to 4 to 6 hours. The problem occurs with how the brain processes and knowing this, we work with the patient. Detox is a nasty process.”
Drug addiction is a chronic disease. “We do not have enough treatment to correct the problem,” added Dr. Frailey. A certain level of the drug is needed to function on a normal level, “and
prevention is the number one problem we can do well,” said Judge Butts.
One cannot be incarcerated just for being addicted to heroin, only if they commit a crime. Efforts are taken on recovery programs. “We believe education is key. We need to understand the disease,” explained Christine Boyles who told the story of how she lost her 23 year old daughter to heroin addiction. “The worst day sober is still better than the best day high. We’re average people. It can be anybody’s child. It is not anything to be ashamed of. It is a disease.”
More hearings are going to be held this month. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has announced four public hearings to be held in the state for the increased use of heroin according to state senator Eugene Yaw. One was held July 9 at Susquehanna Health with efforts to develop legislative policies to help curb the use of dangerous narcotics that are impacting rural Pennsylvania.