Abuse of prescription drugs and heroin leads to graphic horror stories where anyone can be a victim.
In York County, the face of addiction has "drastically changed" - and the saddest part is that it happens to good people, said David Sunday, chief deputy prosecutor for the county district attorney's office.
"Heroin addictions are everywhere in York County," from Dillsburg to Delta, he said during a Wednesday roundtable discussion with pharmacists and law enforcement held by state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township.
The county has had 30 deaths attributed to heroin so far this year - that's on pace for 45 deaths in 2014, Sunday said. Last year, York County had only 17 fatal heroin overdoses, he said.
A lot of people call it an epidemic, "and it is - it just is," Sunday said. Impact of abuse: When asked why he resorted to prescription pills, one young man told Sunday he found them in his mother's cabinet - they were prescribed by a doctor and not some "dirty needle," he said.
But the black market exploits people with severe addictions. A pill addiction costs between $80 and $120 a day, whereas heroin costs between $10 to $25 a day, he said. Both produce a similar high.
"I think what's going on in York County right now is terrible," said Adriane Shultz, director of inpatient treatment at Colonial House in West Manchester Township.
At her facility, she said, about half of the patients are 19- to 24-year-olds addicted to heroin.
"The scary piece of this is how young these kids are," she said.
Chief Mark Bentzel of Northern York County Regional Police said pills are floating around area high schools.
"Prescription drugs are absolutely through the roof in high schools," he said.
Possible solutions: The district attorney's office recently formed a heroin task force to address the issue, Sunday said. And state legislation, in the form of a Senate bill and a similar House bill, would build on Pennsylvania's existing prescription drug monitoring program.
The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland/York, would allow for the state's drug database to include Schedule III, IV and V drugs, such as Vicodin and Xanax.
The objective of the expansion, Vance writes, is to prevent "doctor shopping" by allowing practitioners access to other patient prescription data.
The bill would also help pharmacists identify fraudulent prescriptions before giving them out, she says.
"I'm very hopeful we do move forward with either one" of the bills to combat prescription drug abuse, Grove said. Both are now in health committees and still await approval.
Another important component is awareness, said Tom Bowser, an independent community pharmacist based in DuBois, Pa. He said he'd like to go to schools and have students listen to "Needle and the Damage Done" by Neil Young.
"To me, education is the best thing we can do," he said.
Sunday said that if this kind of drug abuse "hasn't touched your life at some point, it will," but the important part is talking about it.
"Rep. Grove here has people talking about it, and that makes me happy," he said.
- Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.