4,600 People Died of Overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2016, 37 Percent Increase: DEA

More than 36 people for every 100,000 Pennsylvania residents died from drug overdoses, with fentanyl passing heroin for the first time.

Fentanyl passed heroin last year as the deadliest drug in Pennsylvania as fatal overdoses continued to skyrocket.

More than 4,600 people died in 2016, a 37-percent increase, according to the Philadelphia field division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA is releasing its "Analysis of Drug-Related Overdose Deaths in Pennsylvania, 2016" by the end of June.

But among key findings released Thursday include:

  • Prescriptions and opioids made up 85 percent of fatal overdoses.
  • Fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances were identified as the cause in 52 percent of deaths, passing heroin (45 percent) for the first time.
  • Pennsylvanians 15-to-24 years old "had a 380% increase in their odds of a fentanyl-related death than other age groups."
  • Pennsylvanians 25-to-34 years old "had a 970% increase in their odds of dying of a heroin-related overdose when compared to other age groups."
The report later this month is being prepared with assistance from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacy.

"The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in the midst of an unprecedented epidemic of drug abuse and drug-related overdose deaths that impacts every corner of the state and all of its residents," said Gary Tuggle, DEA special agent in charge in Philadelphia.  "The collection, analysis, and dissemination of this data contributes to a robust information sharing environment amongst the fields of law enforcement, public health, treatment, and public policy, all of whom are working together to address the drug crisis in Pennsylvania."
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