Pitt professor works to get accurate, detailed drug overdose information

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Apr 25, 2016 1:57 PM

(Harrisburg) -- Getting a true sense of the impact of the opioid crisis is difficult in Pennsylvania.

WITF has reported that the state doesn't have up-to-date, accurate information.

But one professor is making an effort to provide more help.

Professor Jeanine Buchanich at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health is examining death certificates from 1999 to 2015.

She's hoping to gather information about what drugs contributed to each overdose death, where the overdose occurred, and demographic details like age, sex, and perhaps even job status.

Buchanich says she may be able to tear down some stereotypes with her work.

"I think we may. Honestly, I think there could be some surprising pieces of information that we are able to tease out with the detail and level of information that we have with this data," says Buchanich.

But she recognizes the state has no one standard for county coroners to classify a drug overdose.

"We are of course limited, to the extent that medical examiners and coroners are putting information on to the death certificate, so only if heroin is noted on the death certificate with it get a heroin code for example," she adds.

State agencies don't have up-to-date, accurate statistics on drug overdoses either.

Although a private group has provided more detailed information in the past two years, it's still incomplete.

The information is critical because it is used to develop solutions to the drug overdose crisis.

Public health experts have frequently cited the need for accurate, up-to-date statistics to get a handle on the drug overdose crisis.

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