In a first in Pennsylvania on March 9, 2016, the Upper Darby Township Police Department in Delaware County announced it will connect residents battling with addiction to a treatment center. According to Michael Chitwood, Police Superintendent, “the police station will be transformed into a safe haven for individuals caught up in addiction. Police officers are now taking a greater role in rehabilitation efforts, offering assistance to residents struggling with any type of substance abuse. People can come in, request help, and we will reach out and seek that help for them. Period.”
The program, known as Change Is Possible, was created to combat the heroin epidemic that is sweeping our nation. Referral to the treatment facility will assist individuals to determine what coverage their private health insurance or Medicaid provides. If someone is lacking health insurance, the treatment center will seek funding through county and state programs already available. Individuals seeking help can stop by the police station on weekdays between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. A police officer will perform a background check and contact the treatment facility.
“The number one war in America right now is drug addiction,” emphasized Mayor Thomas Micozzie. “It’s killing the fiber of our communities. It’s not only our youth – it’s the middle-aged accountant, it’s the housewife who suddenly had a dental problem and got hooked on opioids.” “This is about saving lives,” added Superintendent Chitwood. “If we can save a life, we’ve accomplished something.”
Heroin is an opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance, known as black tar heroin. Prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin abuse. Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin. Some individuals reported taking up heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids.
When it enters the brain, heroin is converted back into morphine, which binds to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors. These receptors are located in many areas of the brain (and in the body), especially those involved in the perception of pain and in reward. Opioid receptors are also located in the brain stem, which controls automatic processes critical for life, such as blood pressure, arousal, and respiration. Heroin overdoses frequently involve a suppression of breathing. This can affect the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can have short and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma and permanent brain damage.