FAQ: Addiction and Recovery

This drug epidemic is unlike any other that preceded it, claiming victims across demographic, social and racial lines. Bucks County has been especially hard-hit, with 185 opioid-related deaths recorded last year, a 50% increase from the previous year. While the highest rates of overdoses are found in those of age 25-54, teenagers have been increasingly affected with victims as young as 12 years of age reported locally.

FAQ Addiction and Treatment

In 2016 in Bucks County, we lost 185 lives to opioids -- a 50-percent increase from the prior year. In neighboring Montgomery County, opioid abuse claimed a staggering 240 lives -- one of the highest counties in the state with opioid-related deaths. Nationally, heroin deaths have risen sharply and now surpass 30,000 a year, with each fatality representing a family crushed by the overwhelming loss of a loved one. (Source: US Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
The current opioid abuse epidemic is notable in that it crosses demographic, age, gender, race, and neighborhood lines like no other drug crisis in recent history. While urban areas will certainly see more cases due to the concentration of population, suburban and rural communities that traditionally had a low incidence of drug-related problems have experienced some of the highest increases in addiction and opioid-related deaths over the past decade. (Source: The Canyon)
Help is available from many sources in Bucks County. If you need immediate help in a crisis situation, call 911. If you need help taking the first steps toward recovery for yourself, a loved one or a friend, start with this information sheet from the Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission. Also visit our resource page for a list of agencies that are ready to help.
ACT 53 is a law in the state of Pennsylvania. Act 53 allows a parent  or legal guardian to get a drug and alcohol assessment for their child, and if warranted, compel the child to enter treatment. (Source: The Council of Southeast PA)
Opioids are naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some opioid medications are made from this plant while others are made by scientists in labs. Opioids have been used for hundreds of years to treat pain, cough, and diarrhea. The most commonly used prescription opioids are oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, and morphine. Heroin is an opioid, but it is not a medication. Fentanyl is a powerful prescription pain reliever, but it is sometimes added to heroin by drug dealers, causing doses so strong that people are dying from overdoses. (Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse)
Fentanyl is an opioid drug that is 50 times more powerful than heroin. Medically, it is used to treat extreme pain and for surgeries. But now it’s being made illegally and is sometimes mixed with other drugs, leading to overdose.
Heroin is derived from morphine, which is a natural substance that is removed from the seed of the opium poppy plant. Heroin is distributed as a white or brown powder, or as a black, tacky substance known as “black tar” heroin. It is classified as an illegal drug with no accepted medicinal uses in the United States (Schedule I controlled substance) by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It is typically injected, smoked, or snorted when abused. Fentanyl is a synthetic (manmade) opioid that is similar to morphine; however, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns that it is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. The chemical structure of fentanyl is slightly different from that of heroin. Fentanyl was originally synthesized as a powerful analgesic (pain reliever), and it is still used medically to treat severe pain following surgery or for chronic pain in people who are opioid-tolerant so other painkillers aren’t effective. Unlike heroin, fentanyl does have some accepted medicinal uses, so it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA. Schedule II drugs still have a very high potential for abuse and addiction despite their specific medical uses. (Source: American Addiction Centers)
Narcan® is a medication that revives people who overdose on opioids. Narcan® is the brand name, nasal spray form of naloxone, an opiate antagonist. In the event of an overdose (or possible overdose), naloxone can be administered immediately, and reverses the overdose by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors. It is non-addictive, and non-harmful even if administered in error (Pennsylvania Act 139, known as the Good Samaritan Law, actually protects those administering naloxone in good faith from liability). It is easily obtained and can be administered as a nasal spray with minimal instruction by anybody. Bucks County offers training and free naloxone to the public. (Source: Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission)
Neshaminy School District is actively combatting this epidemic through programs of education, prevention, identification and assistance. These include:
  • Prevention education through updated age-appropriate curriculum at all grade levels
  • Positive behavior programs (SWPBIS) throughout the district
  • Student Assistance Program (SAP) teams are in place at each building to identify students at risk and direct them and their families to appropriate assistance programs within and outside the district
  • Selected staff members at each school have received the overdose reversal medication Narcan® and appropriate training
  • Staff training to assist in identifying the signs of substance abuse and the appropriate response
  • The district has built strong relationships with local government agencies, law enforcement, treatment centers, social service agencies and community groups to help in these efforts