A Pennsylvania state report released this past week claims that heroin is now easier to obtain in the state than wine, and cheaper than beer, especially in rural PA.
The report, which comes from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a joint legislative state agency, claims you can get small packets of heroin for between $5 and $10 across PA, which I did not know was a thing. The crazy thing? We're not talking about specifically urban areas here; Cambria County, to use one example, has a drug overdose rate of 22.6 deaths per 100,000 people — equal to Philadelphia's rate.
On the one hand, that seems insane — how can heroin be that easily attainable? On the other hand, have you ever been to rural Pennsylvania? It's...not pleasant. Here's a partial list of billboards we've driven past while heading from pseudo-civilization (Pittsburgh) to actual civilization (a real city where they don't put french fries on everything):
- A picture of a clown with the caption "HE still believes in global warming"
- A picture of a mountain with the caption "The sun sets, wind dies, coal is forever"
- A picture of Lady Gaga with a steak on her head and the caption "Would you take energy advice from a woman wearing a meat dress?" There are similar billboards involving Yoko Ono and Robert Redford.
- Way more aborted fetus billboards than I care to name, remember, or differentiate.
Given the fact that we're talking about a place where that sort of thing is par for the course, coupled with the high poverty rate across the state, it's not surprising that people turn to drugs as an escape — I can't say I blame anyone who does.
This is a bigger problem than just "rural PA sucks" (even though it does). Obviously, something needs to be done considering that, as it stands, the resources for treating drug addiction in the state are limited enough that they could only treat one out of every eight addicts. It's probably a good sign that the report is a joint effort between both parties and that both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge there's a problem. Some of the report's recommendations (a "Good Samaritan Law" that would allow those who seek help for overdose victims to not face criminal charges) are better than others (making it easier to prosecute drug dealers whose customers die of overdoses, which is ultimately an idea that gets a lawmaker's righteous justice boner going but doesn't really help fix the problem), but at least someone's proposing something.
Here's another idea: maybe actually provide the resources necessary to provide effective treatment for those with addiction issues? The fact that could work means PA almost certainly won't do it, though. If there's one thing I've learned from living here, it's that average citizens would rather hamstring the government and then blame it for not doing its job. They might as well rename PA the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy State.
Image via Evdokimov Maxim/Shutterstock.