Fentanyl Overdoses Fuel Record-Breaking Drug Deaths In Pennsylvania

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

The relentless flow of deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl into American communities is causing drug overdose deaths to surge to record-breaking levels across Pennsylvania.

Officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released data Tuesday showing drug overdose deaths increased by 17.5 percent in Pennsylvania in 2017, claiming a record 5,456 lives. Roughly 42 per 100,000 people throughout the state die from a drug overdose, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

An estimated 67 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the state involved fentanyl or chemical variants of the substance. DEA officials said there is “a persistent and pervasive drug threat in Pennsylvania.” (RELATED: CDC Warns Of ‘Dramatic Rise’ In Synthetic Opioid Deaths Over 2017)

States across the country are struggling with an influx of fentanyl and other synthetic painkillers into both opioid and non-opioid drug supplies. Data from the Maryland Department of Health released July 26 shows the number of fatal overdoses in the state hit a record high in 2017, killing 2,282 people.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the CDC. Officials say preliminary data shows drug overdoses killed roughly 72,000 people across the U.S. in 2017.

The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S., officials say. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.

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