Addiction In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Situated on the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg is one of the largest cities in all of Pennsylvania and the state capitol. The city is a popular tourist destination within the state due to the local government monuments and its close proximity to Hershey. However, Harrisburg is struggling with high rates of opioid abuse and, like most East Coast cities, drug trafficking. In 2015, there were 125 opioid-related overdose deaths in Dauphin County, making it one of the highest in the state.
The Opioid Epidemic
The entire state of Pennsylvania is in the midst of an opioid crisis, and Harrisburg has not been spared of its devastating effects. Pennsylvania is recorded to have had a seventeen-fold increase in overdose deaths over the past 5 years, from 108 reported deaths in 2013 to 1,982 deaths in 2017. Many officials are attributing the rise in mortality rates to the growing popularity of fentanyl in south central PA. Because fentanyl is so potent, it can cause a much higher rate of overdose death than heroin, despite lower user rates. In 2015, 52% of all drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania were due to Fentanyl alone. Local law enforcement reports show that many users are now seeking out fentanyl instead of unknowingly purchasing the drug disguised as heroin, and street-level traffickers are openly marketing fentanyl to customers instead of disguising it as heroin.
This past year, Dauphin County experienced a record high of opioid overdose deaths, with 102 fatalities. In response to this alarming trend, Harrisburg officials are attempting to curb drug misuse by hosting several drug take-back events throughout the city and informative training sessions on how to administer the overdose reversing drug Narcan. The Dauphin County Drug and Alcohol Services Department is also sponsoring an anti-substance abuse campaign to correct misconceptions about drug and alcohol use and encourage the city’s youth to make more positive choices.
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Drug Trafficking In Harrisburg
Harrisburg is a prominent hub for illicit substance trafficking, as the transportation infrastructure is ideal for smuggling drugs into the area. Thousands of cars pass through south central Pennsylvania daily on Interstate 78, which has made it a major route for drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) to bring drugs up from the southwest border. Interstate 81 is part of a network of highways called Corridor A that stops just before Pennsylvania, on which tons of illegal drugs transported from southern California and Florida are moved into major northern cities. I-81 connects then with I-78 in Union Township and continues east towards north New Jersey and New York City. Drugs are moved along the road system towards those destinations and deposited along the way for local distribution. DTOs will typically stop somewhere in Lebanon County, repackage the drugs, and distribute them to cities such as Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Reading, and Easton.
Central Pennsylvania also boasts a network of airports, including Harrisburg International Airport, which is the third-busiest passenger airport in Pennsylvania and an active cargo hub. Air travel is attractive to drug dealers for a variety of reasons, including: the speed of transportation, the fact that flight security is often focused more on passenger security than drug interdiction, and the ability of drug traffickers to change flights at the last minute or leave at a layover stop if needed. As of recent years, the Harrisburg airport has experienced increased rates of cocaine seizures on incoming flights from Puerto Rico.
To combat drug smuggling and other illegal activity on the highways, the Pennsylvania state police instituted the Safe Highways Initiative through Effective Law Enforcement, or “Operation Shield,” to increase awareness and patrol of the roads. Additionally, Dauphin County officials have assembled a task force that continually works with a variety of local, state, and national organizations to reduce trafficking, including the DEA, U.S. Marshalls, FBI, and even the U.S. postal service. Within the first 3 months of the Dauphin County Drug Task Force’s conception, state police sized more than 29 pounds of cocaine, valued at more than $10 million.
Harrisburg Substance Abuse Statistics
In 2016, 4,642 people in Pennsylvania died from drug overdose, which averages to 13 deaths per day.
The presence of an opioid, illicit or prescription, was identified in 85% of all drug-related overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2016.
78% of Pennsylvania counties currently have an overdose death rate higher than the national average.
Get Help Today
Regardless of the addiction, there are many considerations that go into choosing the right drug or alcohol rehab in Pennsylvania. The type of substances abused and length of addiction will dictate which level of care is needed and help narrow down your options. Luckily, Harrisburg is home to countless rehabilitation centers including the Penn State Health Psychiatric Institute. If you’re someone that’s struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, contact a treatment provider and take a big step in your journey towards recovery.