Heroin epidemic hits home in Delaware Valley

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The heroin epidemic in America is only getting worse every year. (WPVI)

The heroin epidemic in America is only getting worse every year.

The federal government announced Friday it will send $94 million to health centers in 45 states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Only $325,000 of that will make it to Philadelphia so it's not clear what the local impact is going to be.

"Given the severity of the problem it's welcomed, but certainly doesn't appear to be enough," said Frank Mount of Gaudenzia. "Again I am not a numbers guy."

How common is heroin use in our area?

A few weeks ago, Upper Darby police released surveillance video footage of a young man settling in on a bus.

He then breaks out his kit and allegedly shoots up with heroin. Later he collapses from an overdose.

Heroin use is up 63 percent between 2002 and 2013. It's become a cheap substitute for other drugs, officials say.

Mount explains people can get hooked on pain pills following a medical procedure.

"Sometimes you get a prescription for a month of pain bills and then it's off to the races because all of a sudden you're addicted, you can't buy the pills anymore, the doctor won't give you another prescription so you turn to heroin, which is cheaper, and you see it over and over and over again," said Mount.

Heroin use cuts across racial and economic lines. Recently, its biggest growth has been among whites and the middle class.

Heroin is a derivative of Opium. In the late 19th century, the German pharmaceutical company that developed Aspirin trademarked heroin, pitching it as a "safe, nonaddictive" painkiller suitable for children's cough medicine.

So initially, at least, it was considered a wonder drug. In a world where pneumonia reigned and there were no antibiotics, it was a much-needed cost suppressant. It was used as a safer derivative than morphine, and it was supposed to help aid alcoholism cures.

But it was a mistake, it was highly addictive and now, more than a century later, it is still causing trouble.

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If you have a loved one suffering from heroin addiction, there are many ways to help.

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