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The Heroin & Opioid Epidemic 

Korey Leslie, Attorney-At-Law, LLC Nov. 18, 2022

Teen heroin user lying on tableAccording to the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General, the heroin and opioid epidemic is the “number one public health and safety challenge” facing the Commonwealth. In 2021, 5,168 Pennsylvanians died from overdoses, and an average of 14 persons continue to perish each day. Pennsylvania has the third highest use of heroin in the nation and is seventh in the number of deaths due to heroin overdose.  

Heroin is an opioid made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the poppy. Heroin can be injected, sniffed, snorted, or smoked. Prescription opioid medicines have effects similar to heroin, and studies have shown that heroin use often leads to prescription opioid abuse, while prescription opioid use also leads to heroin abuse. Thus the two are often linked.  

Mere possession of heroin is a serious crime in Pennsylvania, while prescription opioids such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone appear on Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), making them illegal to sell or distribute outside of the medical-pharmaceutical industry.  

If you or a loved one is being investigated or charged with a crime related to the possession, sale, or distribution of a controlled substance in or around York, Pennsylvania, contact our team at Korey Leslie, Attorney-At-Law, LLC. Every case is different, and we have the resources to develop a defense strategy based on your specific circumstances. We proudly serve clients in Harrisburg, Lancaster, and Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. 

Pennsylvania’s Heroin and Opioid Epidemic 

As briefly described above, Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid abuse and fatality statistics are among the top ten in the country. In the early 2000s, heroin began replacing cocaine as the drug of choice for many, and at about the same time, prescription opioids also took off with a push from the pharmaceutical companies. In addition to Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, opioids include OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, and Codeine.  

Prescription opioids, as mentioned earlier, fall under Schedule II of the Controlled Substance Act. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) calls them Controlled Prescription Drugs (CPDs).  

A study done on Pennsylvania’s opioid use in 2017 found that Pennsylvania pharmacies filled more than 2.4 million prescriptions for almost 260 million dosage units of Oxycodone products and 1.6 million prescriptions for 146 million dosage units of Hydrocodone products. This amounted to 32 dosage units for every Pennsylvanian.   

With that many pills in circulation, it’s no wonder that abuse and addiction started to spread. When prescribed opioids end up in the illicit drug trade, the DEA terms this “diversion.”  

As for heroin, the DEA reports that its use is on the rise in the Commonwealth, saying the product is “abundant throughout Pennsylvania.” The DEA also warns that heroin is now often being laced with fentanyl, and sometimes fentanyl is masqueraded and sold as heroin. Fentanyl, of course, can be a deadly killer. 

Effects and Symptoms of Heroin and Opioid Abuse 

Heroin has both short-term and long-term effects. In the short term, the user can experience dry mouth, nausea and vomiting, a warm flushing of the skin, and bouts of conscious and semiconscious states called going “on the nod.” Long-term effects include insomnia, infection of the heart lining, liver and kidney disease, mental disorders, and more.   

The most obvious signs of a heroin user are collapsed veins on those who inject the drug and damaged tissue inside the nose on those who sniff or snort it.  

As for opioid abuse, it is harder to detect in the early stages. According to the Wellness Resource Center, the symptoms and signs of opioid abuse can be broken down into four categories: behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial:   

  • BEHAVIORAL SYMPTOMS: Stealing medications, rotating doctors for prescriptions, poor performance at work, isolation from family and friends. 

  • PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS: Weight gain or change in hygiene, poor motor skills, and coordination, digestive problems such as vomiting or diarrhea, nausea, and pupil constriction. 

  • COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS: Slowed thinking, impaired judgment and problem solving, difficulty concentrating, feeling detached from one’s surroundings. 

  • PSYCHOSOCIAL SYMPTOMS: Emotional swings, unprovoked and sudden outbursts, irritability, depression, paranoia. 

Possible Criminal Charges 

Even possessing heroin can have serious consequences. Pennsylvania classifies heroin as a Schedule I substance, and if you are caught in possession of it, you can be subject to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of one year and a fine of up to $5,000.  

A more serious charge is possession with the intent to deliver (PWID). Depending on the substance, the penalties vary. For heroin, a PWID conviction can land you behind bars for 360 months, along with a fine of $250,000. Since opioids are also controlled substances, if you are selling or delivering them on the illicit drug market, you could also be charged with a PWID. 

Seek Trusted Legal Counsel 

If you or a loved one are being investigated for or charged with a drug crime, the consequences can be serious. Even a mere possession conviction can have lifelong consequences, including a criminal record that will make obtaining employment, public benefits, and even housing more difficult.   

If you’re in Lancaster, Harrisburg, Camp Hill, or York, Pennsylvania, contact our team at Korey Leslie, Attorney-At-Law, LLC, immediately for a free consultation. We can work together to develop a strong defense strategy.