DEA Report on Opioids in Pennsylvania: State Had Nearly 5,500 Overdose Deaths in 2017

Last Updated: Oct 25, 2018

Drug-overdose-death-flatlinePennsylvania experienced 5,456 drug-related overdose deaths in 2017, according to a report released by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This number represents a rate of 43 deaths per 100,000 population, significantly higher than the national average of 22 deaths per 100,000 population.

The report, prepared by the DEA Philadelphia Division and the University of Pittsburgh, found that fentanyl emerged as the most frequent drug category reported in overdose deaths in both 2016 and 2017. Overall, increased fentanyl availability and misuse contributed to a 65 percent increase in Pennsylvania’s drug-related overdoses from 2015-2017.

View the DEA Report 

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Heroin and fentanyl availability is widespread, impacting 97 percent of Pennsylvania counties.
  • Implementation of legislation influencing prescription opioid prescribing has resulted in a decrease in availability. Whether this legislation had led to a decrease in demand is not certain, however.
  • Interviews with drug users and treatment personnel indicate that users often experience multiple overdoses, and the availability of naloxone has led to many lives saved. The report also notes, though, that naloxone is only one component in a continuum of care that also includes prevention, intervention, treatment, and long-term recovery.
  • Multi-disciplinary efforts between public health and public safety have resulted in documented progress in some Pennsylvania counties. The report provides case studies of these efforts in counties such as Washington County and Franklin County.
  • Heroin sourced from Mexican transnational criminal organizations presents a persistent and pervasive drug threat in Pennsylvania.

The DEA concludes that the opioid crisis is driven by supply and demand factors that require a cross-disciplinary approach to combat. “Law enforcement must continue to work to stem the supply of illicit and misused prescription opioids, while public health entities, educators, and policy makers must provide effective resources to reduce drug demand and misuse,” the DEA says.

Related Resources

PAMED’s Opioid Toolkit is designed to help physicians and practices address the opioid crisis. You’ll find answers on Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) querying requirements, the state’s voluntary prescribing guidelines, patient-focused resources on what to do if you suspect a patient has an opioid use disorder, and more. Get the Toolkit.

And, visit PAMED’s Opioid Abuse Resource Center at

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