"The Sweetest Place on Earth" may have a bitter underbelly, according to authorities. Officials warn heroin has made resurgence in the Hershey area.
Howls of fun are heard in Downtown Hershey from roller coaster riders enjoying the theme park. The lamplights are even shaped like the famous chocolate Kisses. However, even "The Sweetest Place on Earth" is not immune to the deadly drug heroin.
"The heroin problem is cyclical in nature," said Police Chief Patrick O'Rourke. "It comes around every now and then, and we just happened to see an up tick here recently."
The chief said over the weekend, police discovered a 19-year-old male overdosed on heroin. On Tuesday morning Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick held a press conference and said the deadly drug problem is spreading.
"If you think this is an inner city problem, it is not," said Hetrick. "It is not at all."
Hetrick explained heroin is fatal on its own. But now he said the county is coming across heroin overdoses possibly laced with fentanyl. Hetrick said fentanyl is 100 times stronger than morphine—a pain-numbing drug used in hospitals.
"The [fatal] signs are so quick, the person may even still have the needle in the arm," said Hetrick. "That's how quick this is."
Hetrick said he is waiting toxicology reports to return in several cases that may involve fentanyl.
Last week abc27 first reported Lebanon County is facing a similar issue. Hetrick said he plans to speak with Lebanon County Coroner Dr. Jeffery Yocum to compare cases. Authorities in both counties said they are even seeing young teens use heroin.
"That's discouraging," said Chief O'Rourke. "It's alarming, and we're very concerned about that."
For police in Derry Township, the thousands of people who flock to Hershey for fun are not responsible for this "up tick" in heroin usage.
"The tourism has no impact," said Chief O'Rourke. "We don't see a lot of overdoses, if any, with any of the tourists that come into town."
Detectives showed abc27 a light blue heroin packet that with a blue tow-truck stamped with the label, 'Get Hooked' on the front. Officials believe drug users are marketing this fentanyl-laced heroin as a stronger high, but may not be telling users the extreme dangers.
Hetrick said he was boggled why anyone would want to use heroin in the first place with the drug's high addiction rate and deadly consequences. He explained, this fentanyl-heroin problem could be so severe, he felt the need to warn everybody—even current drug users.
"I'd rather be safe and jump out and say, look, if you have a heroin habit, you better be careful."