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Fentanyl intensifying opioid crisis in Pennsylvania


Highly potent white heroin from Mexico presents a persistent and pervasive drug threat in Pennsylvania, but fentanyl from Mexico and China is intensifying the state’s opioid crisis.

That’s a key finding of “The Opioid Threat in Pennsylvania,” a comprehensive assessment of the Commonwealth’s opioid crisis by the DEA Philadelphia Field Division and the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy’s Program Evaluation Research Unit, Pennsylvania Opioid Overdose Reduction Technical Assistance Center.

The City of Philadelphia stands as a wholesale market for heroin and fentanyl transported there primarily by Mexican drug cartels directly or through the Southwest Border States, New York City, Chicago, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Authorities say that Philadelphia-based heroin traffickers not only supply retail distribution organizations operating in smaller urban and rural areas of Pennsylvania, but also reach beyond into other parts of the Mid-Atlantic region and New England.  Criminal organizations distributing heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania frequently acquire their supply from northern New Jersey, Ohio, and Michigan.


And an analysis of law enforcement seizures and opioid-related overdose deaths in the report shows that although heroin and fentanyl is concentrated in the primary distribution centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the impact of opioid availability and misuse in the state’s rural counties is equally, if not more, significant.

In 2017, Pennsylvania’s coroners and medical examiners reported a total of 5,456 drug-related overdose deaths, or 43 deaths per 100,000 population, nearly twice the national average of 22 deaths per 100,000. Drug-related overdose deaths in Pennsylvania increased by 65 percent overall between 2015 and 2017, largely attributed to fentanyl and related substances.

The “Opioid Threat in Pennsylvania” is available for download online.

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