York County Coroner's Office sees spike in heroin-related deaths


Six people have died of suspected heroin overdoses within the past six days.

That's according to York County Coroner Pam Gay, who said even with the fact that emergency personnel carry anti-overdose drugs, this year is on track to top last year's sky-high number of heroin overdoses.

So far in 2015, 28 people have died of confirmed heroin-related overdoses, with 17 more suspected heroin-related deaths that await confirmation from toxicology tests, she said.

That's including two deaths that happened Monday morning, Gay said.

Eleven people have died in suspected heroin-related deaths since the start of September.

"Yes, it is an increase and it does concern us," she said.

She doesn't really know why there's been a sudden spike.

"I really don't have a rhyme or reason to it," Gay said.

Further spike: Suspected heroin overdoses usually end up being confirmed, and a few that aren't suspected as such and aren't counted as pending end up actually coming back as heroin overdoses, so the amount pending usually ends up being about right, Gay said. So that means it's likely that 45 people have died heroin-related deaths this year, a number approaching the 2014 total, which was several times the amount of past years.

"Sixty-two," Gay said, immediately remembering the 2014 year-end mark. "I have that number burned into my brain."

What's particularly disturbing, Gay said, is that the county would already be well over that number if not for the 47 Narcan saves this year. Police began carrying the anti-overdose drug, also known as naloxone, this spring.

"That's 47 cases, probably, that would have been ours," she said. "That's just astounding to me."

That would be about 92 confirmed or suspected heroin or heroin-related deaths already this year.

"(Narcan's) definitely helped — it's not a solution" to what Gay has called a heroin "epidemic" around the county, she said.

She said the average profile of the overdose victim is a person between 20 and 40 who has been somewhere where he's had to be clean, such as rehab or prison. Then, with lower tolerance, he overdoses on heroin or heroin that's cut with something else, such as the much stronger opioid fentanyl.

Gay doesn't like when people talk about a "bad" batch of heroin.

"Any small amount of heroin is enough to end your life," she said.

— Reach Sean Cotter at