Opioids are highly addictive chemicals that are have powerful painkilling properties. Heroin, morphine, OxyContin and Vicodin all fall under this umbrella. Abuse of these substances has been growing throughout the country, and nowhere is this more evident than in Pennsylvania, where it’s estimated that one in four families is affected.

What makes this epidemic even more chilling is that crosses all geographic, economic and educational segments. Addiction has moved beyond urban areas into middle-class suburbs and remote rural areas. Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect is the number of families who have seen their teenage children fall victim to these drugs.

According to The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, an agency of the state’s General Assembly, an estimated 34,000 teenagers try heroin annually. The State Coroners Association reported 828 heroin-related deaths in 2012, an increase of 150 percent over 2009.

A principal cause of the crisis is the increasing use of painkillers. Since 1999, the prescription rate has tripled, resulting in an annual total sufficient to medicate every American adult for one month. While individuals who use painkillers for legitimate reasons can become addicted, many others seek them out illegally for recreational use.

Once a person becomes addicted, they are likely to move to heroin for economic reasons. Street value of one pill can run as high as $30, while Mexican drug cartels have made heroin so plentiful that it can easily be found for $10 a bag.

State officials are searching for ways to stem this massive tide. Governor Tom Corbett recently signed a bill making naloxone, a drug used to reverse an overdose, available to first responders and families of addicts. The medical community is also establishing new guidelines to govern painkiller use.

If a member of your Pennsylvania family is struggling with substance abuse, help is available. Our Miami-based rehab facility provides a comprehensive treatment program including family support. Visit our website to learn more about our multi-disciplinary staff and other resources.