ABOVE PHOTO: A protester holds signs in support of a supervised injection sites in Philadelphia. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, a divided appeals court rejected a plan to open a supervised injection site in Philadelphia to try to reduce overdose deaths, concluding the operation would violate a 1980s-era drug law aimed at “crackhouses.” (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Overdose deaths in Pennsylvania grew along with the national rate last year during the pandemic, according to new federal estimates.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 5,172 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania last year, a jump of 16% from 4,444 in 2019. Nationally, the agency’s estimate of over 93,000 was a 29% increase.
The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the overdose epidemic, as lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get, experts said.
The federal agency reviewed death certificates to come up with the estimate for 2020 drug overdose deaths.
Pennsylvania’s 2020 estimate for overdose deaths is still lower than the almost 5,400 overdose deaths the federal agency reported in 2017, or nearly double the amount reported in 2014.
However, last year’s increase interrupted what had been a decline, as Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration took steps to stem the flow of pharmaceutical opioids and get the overdose antidote naloxone into the hands of police, emergency-room personnel, ambulance crews and more.
In the meantime, coroners, law enforcement and state officials have reported that methamphetamine and cocaine use are on the rise while prescription drug and heroin deaths were leveling off.