The phrase "needle park" came into the American lexicon with the 1971 Al Pacino film "The Panic in Needle Park" about lives ruined by the drug in New York City. More than 40 years ago, drugs like heroin were associated only with damaged people in damaged cities like the New York of the 1970s, but today, even the beautiful Berkshires are not immune.

The evidence can occasionally be found around us in the form of discarded syringes (Eagle, July 6). Heroin use has resulted in syringes found on the streets and roadways of Adams, North Adams and Pittsfield, and assuredly elsewhere. They are plainly dangerous, capable of transmitting diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Unlike North Adams, the Pittsfield police department does not respond to reports of found syringes, with the Pittsfield Health Department available to provide advice on disposal. The police department’s approach in North Adams is preferable, as disposal is a job for a professional, and asking residents to do it will make it more likely that the syringe will go unattended.

With the Brien Center now treating more people for heroin abuse than alcohol abuse and an increase in drug-related crimes, the county is plainly in the middle of an epidemic -- as is the rest of the state and much of New England. State and local government, the medical community and the law enforcement community are responding, but they can’t solve this on their own.


Advertisement

There is help for heroin users, and the families decimated by this addiction, from, among others, the Brien Center, Spectrum Health Systems’ clinic in Pittsfield and Berkshire Medical Center.