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Washington County Reporting Alarming Increase In Fatal Overdoses, Experts Blame Fentanyl-Laced Drugs

WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) - Washington County law enforcement and drug counselors say there's been an alarming increase in fatal overdoses. And apparently, it's not just from those who use heroin or prescription pain killers.

Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone calls it a mass poisoning. People are dying after using marijuana and cocaine laced with fentanyl. The numbers are frightening.

"To date, the coroner's office has identified 33 suspected overdose deaths this year. As a point of reference, this time last year, we were at 20," said Vittone.

Many of these people dying are not using heroin but using other street drugs not normally associated with overdose deaths.

"We're finding these same ingredients in the cocaine supply and there's even been reports of it showing up in marijuana," said Erich Curnow with the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission.

The deadly difference maker is fentanyl.

"What is being sold on the street as cocaine isn't cocaine but is actually pure grade fentanyl," Vittone said.

Where is all of this fentanyl coming from? They say China and Mexico, and apparently, there is a lot of it. The deadly poison is so pervasive, the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission along with the district attorney are giving away Narcan.

"It will save a life but you have to have it, and you have to have it available to administer," Executive Director of the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission Cheryl Andrews said.

The use of Narcan has prompted controversy and anger by some of the public. Some say, "why should I pay to save someone's life who just overdosed?"

"If you have something that can save somebody's life, why wouldn't you use it?" said Vittone.

"It's like saying, 'let's not treat people who get lung cancer after they've been smoking cigarettes,'" Curnow said.

Narcan is available to friends and family members of those struggling with addiction as well as those battling substance abuse.

If you want some more information about acquiring free Narcan or you just need help battling addiction, call 1-833-888-0467 or click here.

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