PITTSBURGH (KDKA)- New research at the University of Pittsburgh has found that overdose deaths are skyrocketing in our state.

Researchers at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health did a first-of-its-kind study on the rates of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania.

The study found that deadly drug overdoses increased 14-fold between 1979 and 2014.

The highest rates of overdose deaths were among women, white Pennsylvanians and those between the ages of 35 and 44.

The highest rates of drug overdose deaths were found in counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, near Scranton and those around Philadelphia.

The new report by Pitt researchers was published on Thursday in the scientific journal Plos One.

This was the first study to provide a detailed examination of accidental overdose deaths over a long period of time in Pennsylvania.

The analysis was broken down by sex, age and race.

Some point to the overprescribing of opioid drugs as a reason for the overdoses and drug addictions.

The co-author of the Pitt study told the Post Gazette that, “Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.”

In 2008, there were 41,000 overdose deaths in the United States. The study found Pennsylvania was among 20 states with a higher rate of fatal overdoses than the national average.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald joined the “KDKA Morning News” to talk about the fatal overdose numbers.

“This is a national epidemic that is occurring with opioids, our community being no different and we’re not even just talking about Pittsburgh or urban areas or even Allegheny County, [we are talking about all area],” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald adds that is it something that needs to be dealt with.

“Our U.S. Attorney has really taken the lead working with [Gateway Rehab Medical Director] Neil Capretto and [addiction specialist] Dr. Michael Flaherty on how to deal with this very difficult issue,” he said.

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Lisa Washington