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Heroin Facts
According to the National Household Survey for 1994, 2.2 million Americans have tried heroin; 191,000 had used it in the previous 30 days.
Many complications of heroin addiction are related to the unsanitary administration of the drug. Others are due to the inherent properties of the drug, overdose, or intoxicated behavior accompanying drug use.
The individual who has become physically as well as psychologically dependent on heroin will experience heroin addiction withdrawal with an abrupt discontinuation of use or even a decrease in their daily amount of heroin taken.
Heroin accounts for the majority of the illicit opiate abuse in America.

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Heroin and Methadone deaths must be addressed

As the number of deaths mount, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the problem of heroin overdoses in Westmoreland County must be addressed. Left unchecked, a trend that has seen the number of overdoses increase steadily over the last two years will surely continue.

"I think it's imperative (that something be done) because it's such a huge problem - and it's getting worse," says Dr. Larry Kachik, medical director at Latrobe Area Hospital's emergency room, where visits related to heroin have tripled since 2000.

While many of the patients who've visited hospitals in Westmoreland County survived their overdoses, others weren't as lucky. Last year, heroin was a factor in 13 accidental death in the county, with a total of 23 deaths attributed to drug use. The problem appears to only be getting worse. In less than three months this year, there have already been eight drug-related deaths reported, with five attributed to heroin or methadone, a synthetic drug often used as an alternative to heroin.

Solving the problem will be a difficult task. Law enforcement agencies have pinpointed the major source of heroin into the United States as coming from the South American country of Colombia. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the purity of the drug coming into the U.S. is greater. That, combined with a drop in the price, has increased demand. Drug intelligence officials say most of the heroin coming into Westmoreland County comes from Philadelphia via Pittsburgh.

Law enforcement agencies believe the majority of drugs coming into the county are concentrated along the Route 30 corridor, which leads to Westmoreland from Pittsburgh. To combat the problem, the various police agencies in communities along Route 30, along with state police and federal authorities, must be given every resource available to stop the flow of drugs in the county.

While stepped-up law enforcement efforts will serve to diminish the problem, it won't go away overnight. The county must continue to offer treatment programs aimed at helping recovering addicts stay off the drug.

Kachik says that when a patient treated for a drug overdose leaves his hospital, he or she is given a list of phone numbers of available treatment facilities.

"The alternative to a treatment program is nothing, because these people's future without treatment, without help, is grim," Kachik says.

In the end, it is up to the person to accept or reject what help is offered. And efforts by law enforcement to slow drug trafficking will, at times, be slow, and the results discouraging. Still, we all must continue to support efforts to stop the drug trade and to give people the help they need to overcome their problem.

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