It is easier for a young person in rural Pennsylvania to buy heroin than a bottle of wine, according to a new report on the heroin epidemic in the state.
"Heroin is cheaper and easier for young people to obtain than alcohol," said State Senator Gene Yaw, Chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a joint legislative state agency. He added buying heroin can be cheaper than purchasing a six-pack of beer, Reuters reports. Yaw said a small packet of heroin costs between $5 and $10, and delivers a high that can last for four to five hours.
Overdose deaths in rural areas of the state rose from one per 100,000 people in 1990, to 13 per 100,000 in 2011, according to the report.
The report recommended several legislative solutions to the opioid overdose epidemic. One bill would provide immunity to an individual who contacts authorities in the event of a drug overdose, while a second would expand the types of drugs monitored under the state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
"The increased use of heroin, which often has roots in the abuse of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin, has catapulted Pennsylvania to seventh in the nation for drug-related overdose deaths in the latest federal statistics," Yaw said in a news release. He added, "Simply locking people behind bars is not the answer. We, as a state, need to do more."