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Drug-Related Deaths On The Rise In Westmoreland County

GREENSBURG (KDKA) -- A drug epidemic is claiming a record number of lives, and officials say there's no sign of a slowdown.

Officials say drug-related deaths are up nearly 50 percent in Westmoreland County alone, and it's a dangerous trend that continues to climb.

This weekend, county officials say they dealt with three overdose deaths.

"All three appear to be heroin-related," says Ken Bacha, the Westmoreland County Coroner.

Just one weekend, three more dead, adding to a horrific total.

"2014 was our busiest year ever, the highest number of fatal overdoses we've ever experienced in this county's history. We had 87," says Bacha. "So far, this year we're at 67 at we're only half way through the years. Puts us on pace to do between 120 to 130, which is off the charts."

In 2014, the prime overdose killer was prescription drugs. This year, however, heroin commands the death toll, which comes down to basic economics.

"A 30 milligram oxy sells for a buck a milligram, so a 30 milligram pill is $30. That's a lot of money. You can go buy stamped bags of heroin for $8 a bag, even sometimes there'll be some a cheap as $5 a bag," said Bacha.

The good news, there is some, is that the prescription drug drop off boxes around the county like the one in the courthouse, are being used. Also, first responders have special drugs to immediately treat overdose patients and keep them from dying.

But the overdose body count continues to rise.

"All socio-economic groups, all parts of the county, it's everybody," says Bacha. "It doesn't discriminate in any way, shape or form."

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