State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

PA drug report shows overdose rise

Written by Katie Meyer | Jul 12, 2016 9:51 PM

Opioids, like OxyContin, are commonly mixed with heroin in overdose cases. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- Nearly 3,400 people died from a drug overdose in Pennsylvania last year, according to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration report.

It's a startling increase for a crisis that was already reaching historic highs.

Drug-related deaths in the state rose by nearly 24% from 2014 to 2015, according to the findings.

That an increase of more than 600 deaths in one year.

The statistics show heroin caused the most deaths, and it's often mixed with other powerful drugs like fentanyl or hydrocodone

Jeremiah Daley, with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, says the drug crisis needs a multifaceted approach.

"This is a public health problem, as well as a criminal justice problem, as well as a societal issue that we need to look at," he said.

Zane Memeger with the US Attorney's office, adds that the deaths are affecting virtually every demographic.

"It knows no boundaries," he said. "Age, gender, race, and economic status don't matter. Rural, suburban, and urban jurisdictions are all being impacted."

Reporting by WITF has shown there's no standard for categorizing a drug overdose in Pennsylvania, despite a crisis that has stretched for years.

The issue can lead to a lack of reliable, accurate information for first responders who are trying to keep people who overdose alive.

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