Overdose deaths in Allegheny County may have peaked, officials say |

Overdose deaths in Allegheny County may have peaked, officials say

Megan Guza
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
A naloxone nasal injection device

Allegheny County officials are considering a 12-percent increase in overdose deaths last year a win over previous years that saw far higher increases.

In a Monday afternoon press release, the county medical examiner said the final tally of overdose-related deaths in 2017 was 735. That’s 80 more deaths than 2016, which saw 655.

Dr. Karl Williams said data shows the overdose epidemic peaked in the fourth quarter of 2016, and each quarter has dropped progressively since then. Williams said there were 259 overdose deaths in the last three months of 2016.

“The numbers have dropped progressively since that point, with 133 being recorded for the last quarter of 2017,” he said. “There has also been a corresponding decrease in total autopsies processed by the office.”

Officials said overdose deaths are slowing because of access to Narcan, an overdose-reversal drug. They are getting it quicker into the hands of not only first responders, but drug users and their loved ones. They also pointed to a more collaborative effort among county departments, public safety agencies and community groups.

The release noted that fentanyl and its many analogues continued to increase last year, two years after the first – acetyl fentanyl – appeared in 33 toxicology reports in Allegheny County, according to the release.

“These analogues have been increasing in both number and variety for the past several years,” officials wrote in the release. “In 2017, they were documented in 168 cases and, for the first time, two of them were among the list of top 10 overdose drugs found.”

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