PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — A new report with staggering numbers has cemented concern about the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.
The DEA released its analysis of drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania for the year of 2015 on Tuesday. There were 3,383 overdose deaths accorded for in coroners’ reports last year, a 23.4 percent increase from 2,742 overdose deaths in 2014.
The DEA’s Intelligence Program, with the Philadelphia-Camden High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, coroners and medical examiners across Pennsylvania, conducted the analysis for the report.
Gary Tuggle, special agent in charge of the DEA Philadelphia Field Division, joined the KDKA Afternoon News to talk about the findings in the analysis.
“It really illustrates that, in some cases, we’re getting more folks that are transitioning from prescription misuse and abuse to street heroine, but also fentanyl as well,” he said.
Tuggle says there is a need for an increased focus on industry awareness regarding pitfalls associated with the use of prescription opioids.
Philadelphia had the highest fatal overdose rate of any Pennsylvania county, but eight of the top 12 counties were in southwestern Pennsylvania.
“We’re seeing the epidemic in places that are more rural. No longer is it confined to highly populated urban areas,” Tuggle said.
In the report, Fentanyl use was nearly double its 2014 rate, but oxycodone was only up by a fraction.
“There’s increased demand in areas that we haven’t seen before,” Tuggle said. “While we’re seeing the use of particularly OxyContin lower in some areas, a number of users are transitioning to heroine as a result.”
Tuggle says prevention through education and increased treatment capacity need to work with law enforcement to address this problem.”
Listen to the full interview with Gary Tuggle by clicking here.