A new report ranks Pennsylvania 14th in the nation in the number of prescription drug overdose deaths and one of 29 states where more people die from these overdoses than from traffic crashes.
The "Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic" finds that 15 in 100,000 Pennsylvanians die from a prescription drug overdose. That's up 89 percent since 1999.
"We are averaging from 19 to 25 overdoses a year in Blair County alone," says Judy Rosser, the Executive Director of the Blair County Drug and Alcohol Program.
She says the number has at least doubled since 1999 when heroin started making a comeback. People who used that opiate moved on to the same narcotic in another form..
Rosser says in our region, people 25 to 38 are most likely to overdose on prescription drugs. According to the national report, middle-aged males are more often affected.
Where are they getting these medicaitons?
Sue Thau of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America says, "a great example is someone has oral surgery and is given 30 days of a painkiller but only takes 2 or 3 what do they do with the other 27 pills."
Friends or family members can experiment with or pass on pills that are just lying around. Some people doctor-shop or go to emergency rooms, to find a physician who'll give them pain pills. Rosser says passage of a state law to track prescriptions of controlled substances could stop these practices.
She also advocates drug "take-back" programs where you turn in your unused prescriptions, more education on prevention, and more funding for the treatment of addiction.