York County Coroner issues warning after 12 overdose deaths in 9 days
The York County Coroner's Office issued a warning Sunday, March 4, after 12 people died from suspected heroin/fentanyl overdoses in nine days — six over a 48-hour period.
The warning, issued in a news release, aimed to clear up misinformation regarding occasional spikes in overdose deaths, which some claim to be the fault of a “bad batch” of the drugs.
“There is absolutely NO GOOD BATCH of heroin/fentanyl — ANY AMOUNT, NO MATTER HOW LARGE OR SMALL, CAN AND WILL KILL THE USER, NO MATTER THE SUPPOSED TOLERANCE OF THE USER,” the release states.
“Almost all of the (decedents) had fentanyl in their system,” York County Coroner Pam Gay said.
Fentanyl is a substance that is dozens of times stronger than heroin and 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to Gay, and many suffer an overdose death within their first or second use.
Some users even seek out a batch of drugs if it's linked to overdose deaths because of the perceived high potency, the coroner's office stated, but that action often results in additional overdose deaths.
The opioid crisis kills 14 Pennsylvanians a day, according to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
In York County, there were 162 drug deaths in 2017, the highest ever recorded, according to Gay.
The figure was a considerable spike from the 123 deaths confirmed for 2016, according to the coroner's annual report for that year.
“We are putting out this warning with the hope that it will save lives,” the coroner's office release states, suggesting loved ones of drug users stock their medicine cabinets with doses of the life-saving overdose reversal drug naloxone.
In addition, Gay also warned the use of other legal prescription drugs and alcohol could be a trigger for someone in recovery.
The most challenging aspect of the entire crisis is getting to the user, she said.
Prevention programs, treatment centers and naloxone in the hands of all York County law-enforcement officer are some of the examples Gay cited as successes in the war on opioids.
“Unfortunately, it's still not enough,” she said. “That’s how much of a hold this disease has on people.”
Individuals with loved ones who are using and might be looking for help are encouraged to contact the York Adams Drug and Alcohol Commission at 1-866-769-6822 or Not One More at 717-424-8890.