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COVID partly to blame for rise in drug-related deaths in Pittsburgh area

WPXI Pittsburgh
WPXI Pittsburgh
 2021-06-28

WASHINGTON, Pa. — It’s a trend that’s all too familiar. New data shows a significant increase in the number of overdose deaths in 2020 for Washington and Allegheny counties.

Washington County coroner Tim Warco said there were 102 overdose deaths last year - 86 of them from fentanyl.

“Those who are suffering from addition, using heroin, thinking they are buying heroin, it’s not. It’s mixed with homemade fentanyl,” he said.

According to Warco, the 102 overdose deaths in 2020 represent the second-highest total since he took office in 1992.

“It’s an addiction problem. We all know people who have addictions, I have it myself within my own family. It’s a daily battle with the demon,” said Warco.

Officials with the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission said they discovered both the heroin and cocaine supply in the county laced with fentanyl. They are still working to determine the role the pandemic - with closures and isolation - played in the increase.

The rise in drug overdoses extended to Allegheny County, which saw a 22% increase in 2020.

There were 689 overdose deaths last year, according to Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams.

“If it weren’t for Narcan and all the work drug and alcohol programs do, these numbers would be much higher,” said Warco.

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