Lancaster County's Growing Heroin Problem- How to Help Kids Make Healthy Choices

More people died of heroin-only overdoses in Lancaster than in Philadelphia in 2013, according to a Lancaster Online special report. As we wrap up National Drug Facts Week, an annual initiative that uses science to help teens debunk common myths about drugs and drug use, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that, as adults, we can make a positive difference in teens’ lives by helping them make healthier decisions. Here’s what parents, educators, and other concerned adults need to know about heroin:

Heroin Use Statistics

Nationally, heroin addiction rates doubled between 2002 and 2012. When it comes to young people, the numbers are especially disturbing; heroin overdose deaths among American users ages 15 to 24 have increased four-fold over the last 10 years. Pennsylvania, with an estimated 40,000 users, ranks third nationally for heroin use, according to the Lancaster Online report. While it’s easy to imagine that heroin abuse and addiction is a “big city” problem, the fact is that Lancaster County is now home to a serious heroin issue that’s having a profound impact on users, their families, and the community.  

Why is Heroin So Dangerous?

Heroin is converted by the brain into morphine, a substance that binds to brain receptors responsible for the perception of pleasure and pain. It’s a highly addictive drug, and users develop a tolerance quickly, which means they need to take increasing amounts to achieve the same high. Heroin can slow or stop the user’s breathing as well as cause coma. In addition, the use of shared needles increases the risk of HIV and other blood-related illnesses.  

How to Help a Teen or Young Adult Make Healthy Decisions

Start a conversation with him or her about drug use. And keep talking about it. Not sure what to say about drugs? Compass Mark offers many resources to help parents and other concerned adults. Here’s a sample of the FREE help sheets we offer:

For more FREE information, check out Parent Resources or Educator Resources. Securely store prescription drugs & dispose of unused doses. Abuse of prescription drugs, particularly opioid medications, like OxyContin or Vicodin, brings its own set of risks, including addiction, overdose, and death. However, teens and young adults who abuse prescription medications sometimes move onto heroin because the street drug is cheaper to buy and easier to obtain. Provide healthy risk opportunities. Risk-taking is part of growing up, and, when done in a healthy way, it gives young minds the chance to build confidence, learn new skills, and expand boundaries. Examples of healthy risks include activities like trying out for a team sport, auditioning for the school musical, or volunteering at a local senior center. Learn more in Peer Factor: Teen Risk-Taking May Be Sparked by Peer Influence and Risk-Taking: Pain or Empowerment? It’s Your Call. Are you concerned about a teen or young adult? Compass Mark offers Lancaster- and Lebanon-area education, prevention, and treatment resources. Our team will treat you with compassion—and without judgment. Call 717-299-2831, and let us help you.