In 2015, Pennsylvania Suffered Major Increase In Drug Overdose Deaths
According to a new report released by the Drug Enforcement Agency Philadelphia Division, Pennsylvania had a 23% increase in drug overdose deaths in 2015. That’s the largest increase in over a decade. Nearly 3,400 deaths were reported statewide.
Of little surprise, opioids were most often involved. Heroin itself was found in more than 54% of decedents. According to the report, the presence of heroin or at least one opioid (fentanyl, hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone, tramadol) was reported in 81% of the cases.
Fentanyl is a drug of particular concern. While heroin overdoses rose by just 5%, fentanyl fatalities increased by a staggering 93%. Fentanyl is very powerful opioid many times more potent than heroin. It is also the drug responsible for the death of the artist Prince.
And strangely, cocaine has apparently been making a comeback – cases involving the drug increased by 41%.
Additionally, the DEA also reported on demographics. For example, white males in their thirties represented 15% of drug overdose deaths in 2015 (the most common demographic), However, they actually account for less than 5% of the state’s population
In addition, more people are overdosing via multiple drug intoxication, often sedatives, other opioids, or fentanyl mixed with heroin.
Philadelphia, Armstrong, Cambria, and Indiana were the top counties, each having over 40 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 persons (the statewide average was 26). Indiana County has the largest increase in drug overdose deaths from 2014, jumping 260%. Only Cameron and Warren counties reported zero overdose deaths.
“With more than 3,300 Pennsylvanians succumbing to drug abuse in 2015, there exists a crisis among law enforcement, public health entities, and educators to address drug availability, drug treatment, and drug education. The findings of this assessment reinforce that the use and abuse of opiates, specifically heroin and fentanyl, continue to impact Pennsylvania in a debilitating way.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology