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3,383 Overdose deaths for Pennsylvania in 2015, Almost Three Times More Than Traffic Fatalities

November 23, 2016

According to an analysis by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division, in 2015 Pennsylvania reported 3,383 drug-related overdose deaths. This represents a 23 percent increase from the previous year. The number of overdose deaths for Pennsylvania is 2.8 times more than traffic fatalities in 2015 (1,200).

This data comes from the July 2016 DEA Intelligence Report.

The reports key findings also recognize that:

  • Heroin is the most frequently identified drug in toxicology tests results
  • The presence of heroin or at minimum one opioid, such as fentanyl, or oxycodone, was reported in 81 percent of PA overdose deaths
  • The majority of drug-related overdose deaths were male

This report marks the second analysis of drug-related overdose deaths in Pennsylvania.

53 percent of overdose deaths had a presence of an opioid in the toxicology test results. Fentanyl had the greatest increase in decedents from 2014, followed by acetyl fentanyl.

Rural areas have had their share of challenges with overdose deaths. In the 2014 report, 12 of the top 20 counties had the highest rate of drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000. The number of rural counties in the top 20 increased to 14 in 2015.

The DEA recognizes that the number of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania is a crisis. They state that the most important component in reducing drug-related overdose deaths is to prevent initial drug use. The DEA also recognizes the use of naloxone as an intervention to save lives.

HAP and Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems are doing their part to combat this crisis.

In August, Michael Consuelos, HAP’s senior vice president of clinical integration, testified about how Pennsylvania’s hospital are working with their communities to address the opioid epidemic. Dr. Consuelos’ testimony recognized the importance of continuing education in the prescribing of opioids, utilizing the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, and the increased use and access to naloxone.

Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems will continue to fight this crisis to reduce overdose-related deaths across the Commonwealth. HAP is monitoring state guidelines and federal legislation. Review HAP’s opioid crisis page to learn more.

For more information on the DEA Intelligence Report, contact Phillip Burrell, HAP’s director, health market research. For more information about HAP’s work to combat the opioid crisis, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy.

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