Heroin use in Pennsylvania has been increasing for several years. The state’s 2013 report from the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs found 23.5 percent of people entering drug addiction treatment programs listed heroin as their primary drug. That percentage was 20 percent in 2010.
The attorney general’s office estimates Pennsylvania has more than 40,000 heroin addicts. Gary Tuggle, the new special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Philadelphia Field Division, plans to reverse that trend.
Tuggle, age 51, told Philly.com that when he was a police officer in Baltimore over 25 years ago, the purity of heroin was 2 to 5 percent. The heroin gripping addicts and destroying their lives today is more than 85 percent pure. He goes on to say that Philadelphia’s heroin has the highest average in the United States. While the purity level is now over 90 percent in the city, the price per kilo has dropped by 50 percent in the past 25 years.
Heroin and prescription painkillers
Tuggle has been with the DEA for 23 years. He understands how the drug trade has evolved over the years. Because the increase in heroin use is driven by prescription painkillers, he says you can’t address one problem without dealing with the other. In addition to targeting traditional dealers, he plans to go after rogue dealers of prescription painkillers and increase public awareness of the problem.
The national numbers on heroin use
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that more than 681,000 Americans used heroin in 2014. Their data indicate that 169,000 people in the U.S. tried heroin for the first time in 2013. Of those, 21,000 were between the ages of 12 and 17.
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