Preliminary Numbers Show Significant Drop In Overdose Deaths

Numbers down in Allegheny Co. but opioid deaths still an epidemic

Joe DeStio
January 03, 2019 - 10:47 am

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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) – While numbers are far from final, the number of drug overdose deaths in Allegheny County for 2018 is expected to drop substantially from 2017.

 The total number of victims in 2017 was 737. Currently last year’s numbers stand at 262, but numbers will increase as toxicology results come back for cases still pending.

“It’s just been a dramatic, dramatic turnaround,” says Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams.

“There’s no doubt that the availability of (the opioid antidote) Narcan has been a major weapon in reducing the death,” says Williams.

“I’ve got to congratulate the Governor and (state Health Secretary) Rachel Levine for making as much Narcan available. That’s been a real obvious solution to it.”

Williams also cites a coordinated effort by government, the medical community, first responders, and social service agencies in helping to reduce the stigma of addiction.

Williams says more people are willing to seek help which also has reduced the number of deaths.

Most counties surrounding Allegheny have also started to see decreases in the number of fatal overdoses.

Related: New Online Reporting Tool Available To Report Opioid Prescription Abuse

But the epidemic continues. Williams says fentanyl is now in 75 percent of fatal drug mixtures and has become more popular than heroin.

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