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Chester County Press

Opioid crisis continues unabated

08/21/2018 03:00PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Local officials recently announced that through the first half of 2018, 59 people had died due to drug overdoses in Chester County—57 of the deaths were determined to be accidental, and two deaths were due to suicide.

That’s 59 deaths in just half a year—and in just one Pennsylvania county.

During a 12-month period, Pennsylvania had 5,500 drug overdose deaths, according to a still-unofficial count from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s an 8.1 percent increase over the period just 12 months earlier.

Overdose deaths in some other states are rising at even faster rates than in Pennsylvania.

Stronger opioids, especially fentanyl, which is much stronger than heroin, have been blamed for the increase in overdose deaths.

Powdered fentanyl looks similar to heroin, and is often added to heroin to increase the potency and to stretch the supply. Fentanyl makes it almost impossible to accurately know the strength of the dose until it’s too late.

The tragic deaths of music icons Prince and Tom Petty were attributed, in part, to fentanyl. Despite all the publicity that surrounded the deaths of Prince and Tom Petty, the number of overdose deaths continued to climb.

In response to the overdose crisis in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf has declared an emergency, and the state has taken steps to reduce the number of overdose deaths—drug treatments have been expanded, access to newer medications that help people overcome opioid addiction have been increased, and steps have been taken to streamline the process for getting overdose survivors into treatment at hospitals.

Ultimately, however, the power to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths rests not with the government, but with each one of us. We can each make a choice not to risk an overdose; we can seek the necessary treatment and take the necessary steps to overcome addiction, rather than having it overcome us; and we can offer help to those who need it.

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