Local Officials Worried About Increasing Heroin Problem

Police in Centre County are investigating the death of a man and say heroin may have played a role.
STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - Police in Centre County are investigating the death of a man and said heroin may have played a role.

Ferguson Township Police said 21 year-old Joel Rathod, from Maryland, was found dead inside his apartment Tuesday at 711 West Cherry Lane in State College.

Police said drugs and drug paraphernalia were found inside the apartment and preliminary field tests of the items show the use of heroin. Autopsy results are pending toxicology reports.

Anyone with information is asked to call Ferguson Township Police.

Even though officials aren't 100 percent sure heroin is involved in this case, it's bringing a lot of attention to the growing heroin problem in our region.

"It has just been so constant for so long here, it doesn't show any signs of easing up," Dr. Katelin Speer, Doctor of Pharmacy at Mount Nittany Medical Center, said.

Dr. Speer sees case after case of heroin overdoses coming through Mount Nittany Medical Center.

"Once someone takes it for the first time, there's a good chance they'll be addicted to it," she said.

Dr. Speer said injection is the most common way folks using heroin overdose, as the drug travels quickest through the veins to the brain. She calls heroin one of the most addictive drugs known to man. After one use, you're hooked.

"That causes almost an immediate high and then they're after that high and trying to get to that point because that's the best they will ever feel from that drug," Dr. Speer said.

Now, heroin is being mixed with other drugs to help sustain that high, making it even more dangerous.

The State Lab in Greensburg confirmed heroin, caffeine, Quinine and Neurontin were found in those 7 of Hearts heroin stamp bags in Cambria County last week, which officials suspect could be the reason for several overdoses there.

"The idea is that it's going to counteract the negative effects of each other," Dr. Speer said. "The biggest concern is that someone will fall asleep and stop breathing and their body, with a mechanism that would normally wake them up if they stop breathing, is not there."

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said because it's so easy to get across the state, heroin is widespread.

"Heroin continues to be a problem in Centre County and all of Pennsylvania," she said. "Dealers travel, drugs travel, so that's why we have partnerships within the county and county to county."

Parks Miller said community support and awareness may be the key to start solving the problem.

"Heroin really is a drug that knows no type. If you think someone is having problems or might be in the grips of problems, reach out," she said. "Earlier intervention is best with this drug. This is one drug where deaths are a very, very real outcome."
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