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Hacker: Opioid Overdose Deaths Have Doubled Since 2011

  Over-prescribing painkillers, marketing and formulation changes and cheap heroin prices led to opioid epidemics in Carrick, Sharpsburg and Allentown, according to a report released Thursday by the Allegheny County departments of Health and Human Services.

The new findings were collected over six years to better define strategies for both prevention and treatment within targeted geographic areas, Health Department Director Karen Hacker said.

“That includes the addicts in those communities to understand if there are things we could be doing differently to support those individuals in recovery,” Hacker said.

Hacker said there can’t be a delay in getting people with substance use disorders clean.

“If it takes too long between the time an individual wants treatment and (when) they get it, there’s a risk that they could then go out and continue to use and even overdose,” she said.

Deaths from opioid use have more than doubled in the past five years, according to the Department of Human Services, resulting in over 1,300 Allegheny County residents overdosing since 2008.

The report recommends the widespread use of the overdose prevention drug, naloxone, which reverses the depression of the nervous and respiratory systems.