DEA: Pennsylvania drug overdose deaths at record levels

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – Fatal drug overdoses are soaring to record levels in Pennsylvania.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, overdose deaths rose 37 percent across the state in 2016. The numbers show that there were 4,642 in fatal overdoses in 2016, compared to 3,377 in 2015.

Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties saw similar spikes.

“The users are everyone,” said Brett Hambright, a spokesman for the Lancaster County district attorney’s office. “We had a 16-year-old high school sophomore who lost his life. We had a 78-year-old woman. It’s across the board.”

Hambright said the recent numbers are more frustration for law enforcement officers as they continue to use naloxone, the drug to save overdose patients.

“From a law enforcement perspective, we understand arrests are not going to be the only solution for this,” he said. “We have to start locking up these dealers for longer periods of time. We’ve asked the legislature to take a look at mandatory minimums.”

Gov. Tom Wolf released a statement about the numbers.

“We must continue to put resources into treatment and tools for law enforcement, health professionals and families on the front lines, while also expanding education and prevention programs and ending the stigma of addiction,” he said.

“We need more money for treatment,” Hambright added. “We need more beds for these individuals because we’re talking about long-term treatment that’s involved with essentially rehabbing these individuals.”

Hambright also said heroin is the cheapest it’s ever been in Lancaster County.

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